Review: ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ will send your bull detectors into overdrive

Edgar Ramirez is a hunk of priest who helps Eric Bana in "Deliver Us From Evil." Credit: Andrew Schwartz
Edgar Ramirez is a hunk of priest who helps Eric Bana in “Deliver Us From Evil.”
Credit: Andrew Schwartz

‘Deliver Us From Evil’
Director: Scott Derrickson
Stars: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez
Rating: R
1 Globe

Horror films that claim to be based on fact are just begging to be called on their bull. This goes triple for movies about the supernatural. It’s not enough for some movies to scare people with tales of ghosts and demons. Films like the new “Deliver Us From Evil” claim to hold the truth about the unknowable, which they’re taking to you, the people, not to snooty scientists who will say the stories lack evidence. Here are some ways “Deliver Us From Evil” gets it wrong:

It’s not even ‘based on a true story’

“Deliver Us From Evil” claims to be “inspired” by “actual accounts” related by NYPD sergeant Ralph Sarchie. It might as well read, “Whatever this guy says happened is pretty boring, so we just made up our own story.” Pretending your tall tale is based in fact is old hat; “The Blair Witch Project” used it more as a William Castle marketing ploy before revealing its actors were alive and ready for more work. But this is the kind that exaggerates its verisimilitude when it could easily have just offered another ghost story. It smacks of a lack of confidence in the material, as if the only way it would get under your skin is if it convinced you it was real. “The Exorcist,” the grandfather of the exorcism genre, was loosely inspired by a 1949 account, but it went off on its own thing and didn’t hammer that home in the ad campaign. It knew it had the skills to scare without pretending to be fact.

This probably didn't happen in real life. Credit: Andrew Schwartz
This probably didn’t happen in real life.
Credit: Andrew Schwartz

It’s not very convincing anyway

Eric Bana — a fine actor who would get meatier roles had anyone but critics seen 2000′s “Chopper” — adopts a broad New Jersey accent to play Sarchie, a hardened Bronx cop who finds a string of civilians doing crazy things. He’s soon convinced by a Jesuit priest (Edgar Ramirez) that they’re not crazy — they’re possessed, in league with an angry demon, as opposed to that nice kind of demon. But no one would ever think the victims in this film — with their creepy voices, diseased skin and appetite for human flesh — were simply nuts. Some of them can even levitate and impersonate voices and burst lightbulbs as they flood rooms with fog — over-the-top business that makes the head-spinning and green vomit in “The Exorcist” look like documentary footage. (To its credit, the actor getting exorcised, Sean Harris, is a fine ham.) Director Scott Derrickson — who pulled this crap before with “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” — aims for a gritty, grimy cop movie look (the Bronx has never been darker), then undercuts the verisimilitude with supernatural scenes that look like the light show portion of a David Copperfield magic trick. In other words, it’s only a movie.

Olivia Munn tries to convince her husband (Eric Bana) to come to church in "Deliver Us From Evil." Credit: Andrew Schwartz
Olivia Munn tries to convince her husband (Eric Bana) to come to church in “Deliver Us From Evil.”
Credit: Andrew Schwartz

It’s propaganda too

“The Exorcist” was made by William Friedkin, a man of no denomination, but it still explored crises of faith, building around characters wrestling with discovering (in the film) that their worst fears about the after life were true. “Deliver Us From Evil” is a mere scared straight story. Sarchie starts off as a gruff materialist who refuses to go to church with his wife (Olivia Munn, acting primarily with her accent). He’s also a workaholic, so he has another hurdle to get over. The chief arc has him coming back to the church, as this is little more than an R-rated attempt to get lapsed Catholics back to the fold by claiming a bunch of special effects really happened.

Joel McHale can't help but look like he's in a hilarious "Community" bit in the dark exorcism horror "Deliver Us From Evil." Credit: Andrew Schwartz
Joel McHale can’t help but look like he’s in a hilarious “Community” bit in the dark exorcism horror “Deliver Us From Evil.”
Credit: Andrew Schwartz

It’s silly in even less productive ways

“Deliver Us From Evil” doesn’t have a lot of credibility, but what little it does goes out the window every time Joel McHale swings by. A talented comic actor (and regular actor), he’s been distractingly miscast as a tough, tattooed, wisecracking cop with a backwards baseball hat and an Alice in Chains tee. It’s not his fault he looks like he’s in an extended “Community” parody, but he does. Almost as giggle-inducing is Edgar Ramirez as the token Jesuit priest, who hips Sarchie to what’s really going on. But he’s no mere priest: he’s a hunk priest, one who doesn’t wear a collar, eye-bangs hotties in bars and chain-smokes while knocking back whiskey. Not since Matthew McConaughey in “Contact” have the penitent seemed so humpable.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge


Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.


VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.


New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.


Two injured after cable snaps on Ohio amusement…

(Reuters) - A cable on a large swing ride at an Ohio amusement park snapped and struck two riders as the swing was in motion,…


Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.


MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.


James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…


Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.


Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.


Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…


Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400


Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…


Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…


Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…


Cara Delevingne's major fashion faux-pas

Find out why the outfit Cara Delevingne wore to Leonardo DiCaprio's charity gala raised eyebrows.