Deliver Us From Evil is the new film from writer/director Scott Derrickson, who continues to establish himself as a unique voice in the horror genre thanks in part to his ability to blend familiar tropes into fresh filmgoing experiences. In 2005, Derrickson became a known Hollywood presence with The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a motion picture that fused a supernatural thriller with a courtroom drama to great effect. With his latest film, Derrickson successfully blends the gore of an occult horror picture with the pace of a redemptive police procedural to create a new type of cop movie, even if it covers territory tread by other, lesser films (I enjoyed this far more than the arguably similar Fallen, despite that movie’s inclusion of John Goodman, who is kind of a trump card).
Inspired by the accounts of NYPD Detective Ralph Sarchie, Deliver Us From Evil features a strong cast working with a solid screenplay that is equal parts mystery and creep fest to a degree that should satisfy fans of either. Much to the film’s credit, I found myself reminded of David Fincher’s Se7en as much as Derrickson’ other horror outings, Emily Rose and Sinister.
And this is one of the central reasons Deliver Us From Evil works. I’ve seen my fair share of films in either of the above-referenced categories, and I often find myself tired by more of the same: the police thriller wherein the quiet supporting character who we met in the first ten minutes turns out to be the vengeful killer or the slasher wherein an unstoppable shape murders characters about whom I have no concern. Deliver Us From Evil falls into neither of these camps and instead makes some interesting choices that provide entertainment while also exploring the nature of evil, the haunting power of guilt, and the danger of self-indulgence. Rather than a by-the-numbers beat-sheet of conflicts and kills, the screenplay is a series of well-executed set-ups and pay-offs integrated into a cohesive whole.
Of course, one might be wondering why I am reviewing a film like Deliver Us From Evil on a blog like this. Well, basically Scott Derrickson. Few directors working these days are able and willing to explore ideas of faith and spirituality directly while also delivering a strong narrative experience, but Derrickson certainly should be counted among them. He takes his craft as seriously as his content, and his confidence as a storyteller enables him to create thrilling and thoughtful films. Deliver Us From Evil is a fine example. The cynical will have their reservations about both the “inspired by” premise and some of the more hopeful content of this latest picture, but regardless, cinephiles should applaud Derrickson for making a different type of cop movie or, at the very least, an unusually thought-provoking horror flic.