It’s rare to see a Hollywood produced horror film that doesn’t cater to the expectations of a relatively seamless market of teenagers drooling for the genre that’s pumped out every season. Possession films have become their own breed of exploitation cinema. Torture porn took a back seat to the ever-growing obsession of seeing characters become disfigured by an ill-tempered demon that despising being caressed by crosses.
Deliver Us From Evil was sold as another typical ‘based of true events’ narrative but took an alternative direction by having a police detective investigate the superstitious situations. When you think about it, it sounds like a desperate attempt to stand out in an oversaturated market of profitable manure, but the film doesn’t fail in it’s attempts to live up to it’s expectations.
It’s far more engaging than the majority of films in this genre and the film downplays its scares in favour of enlightening the audience with an actual mystery. It’s just a shame it’s a mystery that’s derivative of existing properties but you can’t fault the director of Sinister, Scott Derrickson, for his focus on suspense and establishing a rather compelling police procedure. If the film ignored its demonic overtones in favour of ambiguity, you could be looking at a film that adds a question mark to detective Ralph Sarchie‘s experiences.
A lot of what the film tries to be is reminiscent of The Exorcist by being far more character driven and building horror with skepticism rather than simply throwing the antagonist into the frame abruptly to unceremoniously laugh at the audience’s expense. Anton Chekhov once stated that if you put an object in a scene, it has to be used, so in a horror film the mirror becomes an obvious target to frighten its audience. Yet, Derrickson is able to effective subvert our expectations are scare us via an alternative method.
I admire Deliver Us From Evil. It doesn’t patronize you by flailing its arms and screaming spontaneously every opportunity it gets (only in exceptions to satisfy the just-turned-15-year-olds kicking the seat behind you). There’s more growth to it and I’m particularly fond of how it felt more like a thriller than a straight up supernatural horror. It’s not adding anything new and it certainly it’s pushing itself to be more dynamic, but it’s more than serviceable in a genre that makes cinema buffs feel just as much pain as the character whose processed.