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Deliver Us From Evil Review

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Cop Sarchie (Bana) and priest Mendoza (Ramírez) investigate strange phenomena connected with arcane graffiti created by Santino (Harris), a possessed Iraq veteran.

★★★★★

Ever since The Exorcist claimed to be based on a true story, demonic horror movies have tried to pull the same flim-flam. The source material here is Ralph Sarchie’s paranormal paperback Beware The Night, a collection of tall tales about his work as the NYPD’s supernatural specialist. After an Iraq prologue which mashes up the openings of The Hurt Locker and The Exorcist, Deliver Us From Evil earnestly follows Sarchie’s (Eric Bana) investigation of an outbreak of possession in the Bronx.

Director Scott Derrickson bounced back from the disastrous Day The Earth Stood Still remake with the modestly effective Sinister, but here returns to the docuhorror mode of his breakout hit, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose. However, rather than an Emily Rose follow-up, this is a less-subversive rerun of Derrickson’s series entry Hellraiser: Inferno, which also had an anguished cop making connections between disparate cases that brought him up against a mocking demon. Bana’s Sarchie sports a permanent frown that signifies spiritual angst, while poor Olivia Munn gets stuck with the traditionally thankless role of the angelic wife who nags that her husband is married to his job. No wonder the hero would rather discuss theology in a sports bar with Édgar Ramírez’s pin-up priest than go home to deadweight soap opera.

In the manner of recent horrors like The Conjuring and Insidious, Deliver Us From Evil skitters about, throwing in jump-shock business every few minutes. This trots out possessed playthings, Sean Harris impersonating Alice Cooper in Prince Of Darkness, horrors in a zoo, Satanic graffiti, very loud noises, the inevitable shoutalong exorcism, crucified cats, yet more female family members present only to be imperilled, and contortionist possessees. As is often the case in Catholic-themed horror films, there’s an undercurrent of deadening conservatism which might prompt more sympathy with the devil than the self-pitying killjoys set against him.

You’ll be jolted a couple of times, but these aren’t scares that will stay with you. How about retiring “based on a true story” in favour of “based on a good story”?