‘Deliver Us From Evil’ is dark, violent, and an adventure in grace

Eric Bana, center, and Joel McHale, left, in a scene from “Deliver Us From Evil” (CNS/Sony Picture/Andrew Schwartz)

Horror-meister Scott Derrickson’s newest film, “Deliver Us From Evil,” begins with three U.S. Marines in Iraq who come across some strange writing on a wall in an underground cave. What they don’t realize is that the writing is from the devil and that when they return home, they bring darkness and evil with them.

New York police sergeant Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is one tough cop with his own inner darkness. He is married to Jen (Olivia Munn) with one child, Christina (Lulu Wilson). He works the night shift with his partner, Butler (Joel McHale), in the Bronx, where they are starting to respond to calls about strange happenings featuring a hooded man, odd noises, cold temperatures, and objects that move on their own.

Ralph Sarchie knows he has a sixth sense about most things and is aware that something supernatural is going on. He doesn’t figure it out until he meets a rather freelance Jesuit priest, Fr. Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez), when Mendoza shows up at the precinct and offers to help the police.

Mendoza is an exorcist, but a pastor of souls first of all. He knows the devil takes possession of people who then present as criminal offenders or as people who are mentally ill. He also knows that cops are reluctant to use demonic activity to explain domestic abuse, murder and other crimes. Cops want to put people behind bars, but Mendoza wants to relieve them of their suffering. Mendoza offers his services to help discover what’s going on, and Sarchie eventually agrees.

Mendoza is frank with Ralph and explains his “work.” The priest tells him: “There are two types of evil in this life, Officer Sarchie. Secondary evil, the evil that men do. And primary evil, which is something else entirely.” If Sarchie is going to get anywhere near an exorcism, he is going to have to clear his soul and go to confession. Mendoza leads the way by telling his own story of a sinful past, even as a priest, then Sarchie confesses. As odd things start to happen around his home and threaten his family, the strong-willed Sarchie has to assure his wife that everything will be all right. He has to mend some fences in their relationship, too, since he spends more time at work than with his family.

“Deliver Us From Evil” is drawn from the life and experiences of former New York police officer Ralph Sarchie, as told in episodic form in his 2001 book, co-authored by Lisa Collier Cool, Beware the Night. The storyline about the U.S. Marines in Iraq bringing the devil back with them is a fictional device to tie the episodes together into a single narrative.

I asked director Scott Derrickson if “Deliver Us From Evil” is an anti-war film, and he agreed that it is, though it is also a nod to the story of “The Exorcist” that started in Iraq as well.

He continued:

Genre films about exorcism and horror such as ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ have more ideas going on, have metaphors at work. I liked the idea of demonic possession as a very subtle way to think of PTSD. This condition is so prevalent in returning soldiers that have been recycled through these wars over the last twelve years. I think that war is evil. I am not saying it is … CLICK HERE to continue reading my interview with Scott Derrickson and my review.

 

Here is my on camera review from “The IN Industry with Sr Rose on the IN Network”:

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