Deliver Us From Evil offers a few weak chills
Just in time for Halloween, the old school horror flick ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ arrives on home video. Is it scary enough to send chills down your spine?
It’s that time of year when movie fans like to pull out a classic horror film or check out something new in the genre. Times have changed over the years when it comes to horror. Before John Carpenter’s classic Halloween hit the big screen and spawned a slew of imitators that focused more on blood and gore than pure horror, scary movies were more about the supernatural. There was a spate of Devil movies in the 70s after the success of The Exorcist, and before that it was mostly monsters and ghosts that came out to spook audiences.
Recently, horror movies have moved away from blood and gore (for better or worse, mostly because of studio imposed PG-13 ratings) for more supernatural spookiness with films like the Insidious movies, The Conjuring, Annabelle and Ouija, and the July release of the 70s throwback Deliver Us From Evil, now available on home video.
The film is based on the true life stories of police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana), an everyday guy who found himself up against some very extraordinary circumstances. When we meet Sarchie, he’s investigating some bizarre crimes: odd noises in a basement, dead bodies, a mother throwing her baby into the lion pit at the Bronx Zoo. When he tracks down the man believed responsible for a murder and arresting the mother of the baby, a priest (Edgar Ramirez) shows up to helpfully explain that what is happening may not be of earthly origins. Sarchie comes face-to-face with demonic evil and ultimately finds himself assisting in an exorcism to rescue his own family from that evil.
Audiences accustomed to more high-tech horror may become a bit impatient with the pacing of Deliver Us From Evil, mainly because it starts out more like a 70s police procedural like Serpico before finally becoming The Exorcist in the last act. There’s no pea soup and no head spinning, just some stigmata and a weird neck thing (and exploding windows), so even the exorcism itself is a bit anti-climactic. It’s not a bad movie, it’s just a bit overly long and not very scary.
The Blu-ray edition of the film is certainly worth picking up if you were a fan of the film, or even if you’re just curious. The image is spotless and for a film that takes place mostly at night or in very dark settings, the presentation is beautiful. Colors are somewhat muted, blacks are nice and deep with no discernible artifacts, and it really has the look of a film from the 70s. The sound design, especially during the exorcism scene will kick your surrounds into action if you have a home theater setup. Sound effects and music never drown out the dialog throughout the rest of the movie.
Extras on the disk include:
- Audio commentary with director Scott Derrickson — Derrickson discusses the advantage of shooting the opening in Abu Dhabi, how Sarchie served as a consultant on the film and his relationship with Derrickson, why he changed the priest from Irish to Latin American, shooting in the Bronx Zoo (the first movie to do so in 30 years), working with Eric Bana and Edgar Ramirez (who initially turned down the role of Mendoza because it wasn’t interesting enough), how Sarchie lead to the production of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the materials he gave to the actors to study and how his own fandom for the horror genre helped him make an effective horror film.
- Illuminating Evil (13:36) — Derrickson, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ralph Sarchie and others discuss how the Sepico-meets-The Exorcist story originated. Of note: The role of Mendoza was actually based on two Irish priests who were mentors to Sarchie; Joel McHale is Derrickson’s best friend and the role was written especially for him.
- Deliver Us From Demons (8:25) — Derrickson and make-up artist Mike Marino discuss the art of making realistic make-ups and Santino’s (Sean Harris) scarification. Harris often slept on set so he wouldn’t have to go through the lengthy make-up application process on a daily basis.
- The Two Sergeants (8:05) — Derrickson, Ralph Sarchie and Eric Bana discuss how the movie is a fictional story based on the real Sarchie (who never really murdered anyone). Bana also discusses how filming on location in the Bronx and studying Sarchie helped him maintain the Bronx accent, and how uncomfortable he was having Sarchie on set at the beginning of the shoot.
- The Demon Detective (9:37) — Ralph Sarchie discusses his police work and how he became involved in the field of demonology. Sarchie and Derrickson also touch on how Sarchie’s faith informs his work.
While I wasn’t a big fan of the film, I have to say the special features (including the director’s commentary) made me respect the film and what they were trying to do. Perhaps if they had gone more for the scares instead of focusing on Sarchie (and while the film is based on the real man, the story is entirely fictional), they could have had a great old-school Devil movie. As it is, Deliver Us From Evil is a bit of a mish-mash but a mish-mash that’s represented extremely well on Blu-ray.