A Filmmaker's Review: "Deliver Us From Evil" (2014)
3/5 - Action-Horror Can Work...
Most of the time, I think that a mixture between horror and action would be a complete and utter disaster and that is why when I was at university and a friend of mine mentioned this film to me when it first came out - I chose not to watch it. It remained on my watchlist for six years and so, I have now given it a go and, as far as entertainment goes, it is entertaining. Unfortunately, it is not really much more at all. Meanings were not established deeply and cheap cuts of the Iraqi Supernatural themes found more prominently in “The Exorcist” (1973). The performances, though very good, were met with some shoddy dialogue and over-explanations that I felt took away some of the depth, meaning and tension/anticipation from the film. Thus, the film’s main section in which Santini is exorcised, becomes something almost boring, lengthy and unfulfilling. It walks the fine line between entertaining to watch and completely meaningless. Maybe it is better if you don’t think about it too much because then it really will be quite entertaining.
Firstly, let’s talk about the main performance. Eric Bana portrays a police officer who is cynical about religion but takes it into account that other people are not. He recognises that he is able to see and hear things that others cannot and he is able to sense danger better than other cops can. So far, he is a deep character with several layers. When we come to his ‘sin’ we realise that it is not actually that much of a sin at all and he just killed a pedophile who sexually assaulted children and killed them. Therefore, Eric Bana’s character has not done a bad thing in killing this guy, but blames it on his rage rather than his want for justice. I found this part of the story a bit of a cop-out and Eric Bana’s portrayal of rage to be empty and kind of repetitive. When you imagine rage, you imagine someone being uncontrollable whereas, when you see the scene in which the cop punches the pedophile repeatedly until he dies - it looks too choreographed and controlled for me to believe that was based on rage. Most of his acting was very much in the style of the cynical police officer I expected him to be. But, his performance lacked depth and lacked the impulsiveness of human nature and the impulsiveness of what we commonly associate with the American Police Officer.
The biggest downfall for this film was the dialogue. The script seemed like it was written to just tell us the story. For example: if we take the point at which the priest first appears. Someone explains who he is, why he is there and what he is up to. He explains himself to the cop instead of what we would expect as the cop having to drag it out of him. When the two men tell each other their stories in a bar, there is little expression or anticipation - it is literally just a random side story. Finally, in the exorcism scene, I think the depth and tension is taken away via the priest having to explain every single stage and what is happening. It did not feel like there was a real sense of danger in which time was the most precious thing in the world. The priest spends a lot of time explaining what is going on during the exorcism and then, when he performs the exorcism, we know exactly what to expect and obviously, we know it is going to work already because there is no real sense of mortal danger built up. It is because of this that when we get to the ending, we cannot feel the real reassurance in the cop being reunited with his family.
The film is fairly impressive in its entertainment value and its insane supporting characters. But, if we are to look deeper then we begin to notice all the things wrong with the film in its shot and script. However, the film seems to blend action and horror pretty well and makes good use of the protagonist’s backstory in order to tell the narrative to the audience through a sympathetic figure.