Sony DVD/Blu-Ray January 5
NYPD Blue with Demons.
You might be familiar with the name Scott Derrickson at the moment as he’s just been announced as the future director of Dr Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Being the Hellraiser fan that I am, I first came across him (and his co-writer Paul Harris Boardman) because of the fifth film in the series, Inferno: an interesting, if misguided attempt to blend cops with demons. Years later, and with movies such as The Day the Earth Stood Still and Sinister under his belt, we get a movie that feels like the film Inferno should have been.
Deliver Us From Evil begins in Iraq in 2010 with a trio of US soldiers stumbling upon something nasty in a cave. Fast forward to 2013, and we’re following special ops detectives Sarchie (Eric Bana from Star Trek and The Time Traveler’s Wife) and Butler (Community’s Joel McHale) on the night shift in the Bronx. Here they’re encountering some really weird disturbances, such as one abused woman’s husband acting like an animal and a mother tossing her child into a pit at the local zoo (leading to a gripping encounter between Sarchie and some lions).
Turns out these events are not only connected to the men from Iraq, but also to an ‘undercover’ priest Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez) who’s out to stop a great evil from rising. Needless to say, Sarchie teams up with Mendoza once he realises what’s happening and it’s exorcism business as usual. But can even the might of the NYPD and God put this supernatural serpent back in its place?
Based on a non-fiction book called Beware the Night by Ralph Sarchie himself, the movie was originally pitched to producer Jerry Bruckheimer as Serpico meets The Exorcist. This pretty much sums up the jumping off point for the movie – but it is so much more than that. There’s plenty of character background here, backed up by solid performances from the leads – and with some excellent support from The Newsroom’s Olivia Munn as Sarchie’s concerned wife, unable to understand quite what her husband has got himself into but desperate to protect their daughter from it at the same time.
There are also some genuinely chilling moments, usually involving darkened corridors or basements, some totally original ideas (I’ve never seen a knife fight between a cop and a possessed person before), and an exorcism scene at the finale that’s easily as brutal as any from Derrickson’s own The Exorcism of Audrey Rose, The Last Exorcism or even The Exorcist itself, thanks largely to an outstanding turn from Sean Harris. Hopefully this is just the first in a string of investigations into the unknown by these guys.
There’s a dearth of extras though, sadly – just a 13 minute ‘making of’ featurette and commentary. I, for one, would have loved to have heard more from the real Sarchie about his time on the force, and even afterwards. Maybe in a future release?
Verdict: The Rite stuff 8/10