Archive for the ‘Deliver Us from Evil (2014)’ Category

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Distributor: Sony Pictures

Release Date: October 28, 2014

Region: Region A

Length: 118 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

5.1 French DTS-HD Master Audio

5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Ratio: 2.40:1

Notes: This Blu-ray disc comes with an Ultraviolet copy of the film. A DVD edition of the film is also available.

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“For me, [horror] is the perfect genre for a person of faith to work in. You can think about good and evil pretty openly. I always talk about it being the genre of non-denial. I like the fact that it’s a genre about confronting evil, confronting what’s frightening in the world.”-Scott Derrickson (National Catholic Register, July 1, 2014)

Scott Derrickson’s Deliver Us from Evil was inspired by “Beware the Night,” the memoir of former New York police Sgt. Ralph Sarchie. According to Derrickson, Jerry Bruckheimer’s decision to make a film from Sarchie’s book was an effort to make “The Exorcist meets Serpico.” The end result is a police procedural whose primary perpetrator happens to be possessed by a demon.

Such a production is never going to be a critic’s darling, and even the most tolerant critics mentioned the film’s uneven quality. John Defore’s review for The Hollywood Reporter makes one wonder if Defore even bothered to watch the film before reviewing it.

“A serial-killer mystery in which the culprit turns out to be one of Satan’s minions, Scott Derrickson’s Deliver Us from Evil adapts the detective genre to an exorcism tale that is very serious about the prospect of demonic possession…” – John Defore (The Hollywood Reporter, July 1, 2014)

The perpetrators in the film weren’t what most people would describe as “serial killers.” Where in the film did these serial murders occur? Where are they mentioned? There is a man found dead in a family’s basement, but this is proved to be a suicide… I digress. Defore continues his review with the obligatory mention of the story’s religious aspects before heaping condescending remarks upon the film in the guise of praise.

“More aesthetically coherent if less frightening than the director’s 2012 hit Sinister, the [film] has a shot at surpassing that outing commercially by virtue of its appeal to devout Catholics. That audience will find Deliver very respectful of their faith, though its nods to religion are genre-appropriate and never preachy enough to alienate the average horror fan…

…The investigation yields some appreciably icky encounters with putrefying corpses and deranged prisoners, which is good considering the sometimes-flimsy cop-movie stuff that surrounds the scares. Bulked-up McHale, who acquits himself well in action scenes, gets the kind of jadedly quippy dialogue one can easily imagine him parodying on Community; Munn’s part could have been scripted by cut-and-pasting any of a hundred other neglected-policeman’s-wife characters.

While the supernatural side of the film suffers a flaw or two — continued references to “The Doors” are superfluous and sometimes chuckle-inducing — its central conflict works. Ramirez, shaggy enough to be the Serpico of exorcists but exuding calm wisdom instead of obsessive determination, makes faith look cool. His seriousness enables the movie’s desire to dig into the mechanics of the climactic exorcism — though Sean Harris, drooling and growling and threatening as the possessed man, deserves credit as well. Derrickson’s FX crew careens along the dividing line between excitement and silly bombast, conjuring hurricane-like forces and gory transformations while the holy man attempts to rescue an innocent mortal from his otherworldly tormentors.” -John Defore (The Hollywood Reporter, July 1, 2014)

Neil Genzlinger praises most of the devices that Defore criticizes.

“You know an exorcism is coming in the cop/horror film Deliver Us from Evil, and you perhaps expect it to be a silly disappointment, as exorcism scenes so often are. But Scott Derrickson, the director, and his special-effects crew really deliver the creepy goods here, providing an apt climax for as taut and credible a movie involving demonic possession as you’re likely to see…

…Sarchie’s domestic tribulations — Olivia Munn plays his wife — are boilerplate, and a few horror movie tropes (like a screeching cat) turn up, but for the most part Mr. Derrickson and the cast keep things fresh and scary. A nighttime scene at the Bronx Zoo will certainly persuade you never to be caught there after dark. And if you had any doubts that the music of “The Doors” is a direct conduit to Satan, they’ll be dispelled here.” -Neil Genzlinger (New York Times, July 1, 2014)

Rafer Guzman wrote a somewhat positive review in Newsday, even if he felt it necessary to qualify his praise.

“…It’s a memorable twist on an age-old exchange in Deliver Us From Evil, an exorcism flick that’s far more compelling than its genre usually requires. Thanks to a fine cast, solid direction by Scott Derrickson and an idiosyncratic soundtrack by “The Doors,” the movie’s mandatory cliches — Latin invocations, gurgling demons — are far more tolerable than usual. The material is based on Sarchie’s nonfiction book (he’s now a practicing demonologist), but you don’t have to believe this movie to enjoy it…

…When the believer finally convinces the skeptic that a demon is on the loose, Deliver Us From Evil begins to drag. An Iraq War vet (Sean Harris) emerges as our villain, and Sarchie’s family (Olivia Munn and Lulu Wilson play his wife and young daughter) land rather haphazardly in jeopardy. Derrickson’s ideas eventually run out, but Deliver Us From Evil still delivers far more than expected.” -Rafer Guzman (Newsday, July 3, 2014)

Andrew Barker didn’t enjoy Deliver Us from Evil, but the main issue seems to be that he doesn’t like the demon possession sub-genre. The long-winded first paragraph calls Barker’s objectivity into question.

“It’s possible that the very quality that attracts so many horror directors to tales of demonic possession is exactly what makes so many of them ultimately unsatisfying: Every conflict, and every resolution, can always be written off by resorting to literal deus or diabolus ex machina. Think up a creepy supernatural setpiece with no narrative explanation? ‘The devil did it’ bails you out every time. Write your protagonist into an impossible corner with no reasonable chance of escape? A crucifix or a vial of holy water will do the trick just fine. Relying heavily on this particular crutch, as well as plenty of jump scares and a solid cast, Scott Derrickson’s supernatural horror-policier Deliver Us from Evil is a professionally assembled genre mash-up that’s too silly to be scary, and a bit too dull to be a midnight-movie guilty pleasure. It should nonetheless cull decent business on Fourth of July weekend…

…Whatever traces of distinctiveness the film had previously shown start to melt away as it trudges toward its finale. It’s hardly a spoiler to note that Deliver Us From Evil leads up to a long exorcism scene, though it’s disappointing to see it come and go without adding anything novel to the long tradition of exorcism scenes.

Derrickson, who helmed the well-regarded Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, is a thoroughly accomplished orchestrator of jolts and goosebumps, utilizing quasi-found-footage techniques, p.o.v. shots and disquieting overhead angles to good effect. What he’s unable to do here, however, is string these jump scares together to create any sense of overwhelming dread. It’s perhaps appropriate that the film’s most legitimately frightening individual scene, involving Sarchie’s daughter and her collection of creepy toys, seems to come from a different film entirely.

While Derrickson is astute with the horror tropes, the police-procedural elements demonstrate a weird sort of narrative nonchalance. In one scene midway through, for example, Sarchie shows up alone at a woman’s apartment to investigate some strange video files on her computer. Suddenly, the lights start flickering on and off, and Sarchie is viciously attacked by a demonically possessed man who promptly flings himself through a second-floor window. The next scene shows Sarchie calmly back at the woman’s computer. Did the woman notice the commotion in her apartment? Did Sarchie call for backup? Was he hurt? Did he at least help fix the window?

Buried down just below the film’s surface are a number of interesting ideas, such as a conversation between Sarchie and Mendoza contrasting primary and secondary evil, and the implicit conflation of demonic possession with post-traumatic stress disorder, but they’re rarely given much room to breathe. As for the stars, Bana seems fully committed to the character, though his New York accent varies wildly, and Ramirez walks a fine line between low-key naturalism and sleepiness.” -Andrew Barker (Variety, July 1, 2014)

Kyle Anderson seems to agree with Barker, and shares his disapproval with the sub-genre.

“The procedural portions of Deliver, while no more complicated than an episode of Law & Order: SVU, do build reasonable levels of tension, only to deflate every time Mendoza shows up to batter back evil with a handful of Hail Marys. That’s a fundamental problem with most exorcism stories: they lack drama because they all have to make the argument that absolute evil exists, which makes the solution to that problem divine intervention or bust. So Deliver devolves into a predictable, overlong waiting game. What’s worse, it wants to convince you that it’s a thoughtful meditation on faith, but the only thought I had was, after noticing McHale’s character has the seven deadly sins tattooed on the back of his neck, ‘Man, I should have just stayed in and watched Se7en.’ You should do the same.” -Kyle Anderson (Entertainment Weekly, July 9, 2014)

One has to wonder what Barker and Anderson thought of The Exorcist. Few could deny that it is a powerful horror film. It contains many of the genre tropes found in the series of “wannabe” films that have recently hit the screen. Deliver Us from Evil certainly pales in comparison to The Exorcist, but it does offer a unique take on the material. This is much more than can be said about many of these films.

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The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in the standard Blu-ray case with film related artwork, and the static menu is enhanced by the sound design employed in the film.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Transfers of darker films like Deliver Us from Evil are often problematic, but this transfer overcomes all of the usual problems with grace and accuracy. Fans are offered a pristine representation of Scott Kevan’s brooding digital cinematography. There is absolutely no reason to complain as Sony’s transfer exhibits an extremely sharp image with accurate colors that represent the film as it was meant to be shown. Black levels manage to be perfectly deep without crushing any detail. Digital anomalies are practically non existent. This is as good as it gets on any home video format.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Sony’s 5.1 losses soundtrack proves itself to be just as spectacular as the image transfer. The film’s sound design is rather dynamic, and this lossless transfer meets the challenge. Every audible detail is handled with exquisite precision. Dialogue is always clear and intelligible (although the Bronx accents might throw a few people). The music and ambiance is clear, and loud noises are never distorted (as the track gives them plenty of room to breath).

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Commentary with Scott Derrickson (Director)
This reviewer is not usually a fan of commentary tracks. This is because most commentary tracks are inane descriptions of what we are seeing on the screen blended with excessive back patting. Luckily, Derrickson moves beyond this usual formula and actually provides the viewer with actual information about many ‘behind the scenes’ anecdotes from the production. His “back patting” is usually coupled with stories from the set that support such back patting. This commentary track should be of great interest to fans of the film.

Illuminating Evil: Making ‘Deliver Us from Evil’ – (1080p) – (13:36)

This certainly isn’t a comprehensive overview of the creation of this film. It is actually a short promotional piece (think EPK). However, it does manage to maintain interest, because Sgt. Ralph Sarchie is one of the interviewees. It is nice to have this here, but it isn’t truly informative.

Deliver us from Demons – (1080p) – (8:25)

This featurette focuses on Mike Marino’s make-up design, and is illustrated with plenty of ‘behind the scenes’ footage. The program does briefly stray into Sean Harris’ performance in the film, but this ties into the rest of the featurette quite comfortably. This is one of the two best featurettes on the disc.

The Two Sergeants – (1080p) – (8:05)

Fact versus fiction is the ultimate topic of this short featurette. The featurette takes a look at the real Ralph Sarchie and compares him with the character created by Scott Derrickson. Eric Bana’s performance is also covered in this interesting featurette. Unfortunately, this program only grazes the surface of the topics discussed.

The Demon Detective – (1080p) – (9:37)

One of the more interesting special features is this look at the “real” Ralph Sarchie. Sarchie is the primary interviewee, and is an interesting person (even if you are a skeptic). One wishes that this could have been a bit longer. Fans of the film should certainly be glad o have this included on the disc.

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Final Words:

Deliver Us from Evil isn’t a masterpiece, but it is an entertaining diversion. This film is certainly on par with other recent horror releases, and the Blu-ray disc contains an excellent transfer that will completely satisfy fans of the film.

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Review by: Devon Powell