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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 07.02.14] horror

Though they don't seem to be as common as they used to be, religious thrillers haven't completely disappeared. I fully admit to having a soft spot for these and even the bad ones, looking at you The Order, manage to provide some small glimmer of entertainment so when the trailers for Deliver Us from Evil arrived, featuring Eric Bana as a hardened cop who teams up with a priest to fight evil, I was excited.

To begin with Bana doesn't make as many movies as I'd like him to so it's always a treat when he turns up in a new project. Édgar Ramírez is a talented actor in his own right (see Carlos) and the entire thing is directed by Scott Derrickson who has shown some talent for the horror genre (even if I didn't love Sinister).

Bana stars as Sarchie, a cop who has seen his fare share of the terrible things people do to each other. While on regular patrol with his partner Butler ("Community" star Joel McHale in a surprisingly unexpected and entertaining performance) attends to a routine domestic disturbance call. It's not their usual beat but Sarchie's "radar" is beeping loudly. The pair arrive, discover a crazed former soldier who has beaten his wife. They lose the guy and from here things start to get weird. Turns out this former soldier and his buddies were all dishonourably discharged and have recently been involved with some weird and creepy occurrences. Eventually Sarchie turns to father Mendoza for help and the pair work together to solve the case and save some souls.

The first hour of Deliver Us From Evil is pretty great because it's not the typical possession horror movie. It's a cop drama with lots of creepy stuff happening. There are dudes in weird make-up and hoodies, weird Latin phrases, creepy basements and a nearly unrecognizable (and sinfully underused) Sean Harris appearing to lead the strange events. Things move along at a great pace and Derrickson has a great knack for jump scares the problem is that after an hour of familiar but freshly repackaged religious horror stuff, Deliver Us From Evil becomes every other religious horror movie: Sarchie hooks up with the priest and, even though the priest is not what you'd expect, the movie takes a sudden turn for snoozeville.

Though it suffers from formulaic possession movie syndrome, Deliver Us From Evil isn't all bad, featuring an excellent performance from Bana as a cop who, over the course of the movie, becomes progressively rattled and constantly appears to be on the brink of emotional explosion. It's a great controlled performance with the occasional well warranted blow-out. As previously mentioned McHale is quite good as the side-kick and I was disappointed we didn't get to see more of him. There's also the fact that Derrickson is pretty good at this horror thing. He has a great sense for scares and tension and the movie benefits greatly from that. Even the second half, which is paint by numbers, features a couple of great sequences.

It's not exactly Prince of Darkness but Deliver Us from Evil isn't a total dud and though the second half is mostly unimpressive, particularly compared to the movie's opening first act, the overall package isn't terrible - just forgettably mediocre.

Deliver Us from Evil opens on Wednesday, July 2.

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