Saturday, November 1, 2014

Movie Night at the Rec Hall – Deliver us from Evil

-         - Contributed by Luke Merrill

With the advent of Halloween behind us, and the flip around to Nov and the not-so-celebrated All Saints Day, Horror Camp decided to go a little Catholic this year and watch the Exorcism/Possession Cop Drama “Deliver us from Evil” starring Eric Bana.  The film centering on the topic of possession and subsequent exorcism of demons is the most recent entry in a genre of horror based on real life events following in the grand tradition of movies such as The Amityville Horror, anything based off the life of Ed Gein, and the granddaddy of this film, The Exorcist.

The movie follows a heavy handed cop portrayed by Bana. As an officer Bana’s character is a no-nonsense NYPD special forces agent and a family man whose only failings in life may be his staunch commitment to his wife and child, he loves his job a little too much, and his hard knuckle approach to wife beaters, child molesters and …. Cats. Bana’s character Sarchie has an ear for trouble and an uncanny sense for evil that manifests itself in the form of a Silent Hill style radio static and a psychic Pandora account for Jim Morrison. That’s right the old sixties crooner is helping to protect our main man from the denizens of darkness. Much like the movie “The Lost Boys” if you hear the familiar opening riff from People are Strange you know that trouble is afoot.

Bana is played opposite throughout the movie by his two partners. His police partner is an adrenaline seeking man of action who couldn’t be happier than when he’s encircling an opponent in a knife fight, played by funny man Joel McHale. McHale who I remember most fondly for drumming out wisecracks in “The Soup” a decade ago, does a wonderful job in this action role and is probably the only ray of sunshine in an otherwise somber story. Bana is later introduced to a new partner, this time of the Jesuit persuasion, Father Mendoza. Mendoza is played by up and coming Latin heartthrob Edgar Ramirez, whose unbridled passion and unkempt facial hair does a wonderful job in selling a new look for the Catholic faith. That new look could probably be loosely defined as being “The priest who would most likely sleep with your wife, and not touch your children” that the Catholic Clergy is desperately trying to reinvent themselves into.

The premise is following Ralph Sarchie, the NY Sergeant whose account this movie is based upon, as he follows a trio of Iraq War Veterans who discovered an old world evil in the form of an incantation that can drive susceptible people into possession upon viewing. When viewed the incantation can open a portal (hence The Doors references) that can make your mortal coil the home for the ethereal demons of hell. Sgt Sarchie get tangled up into these affairs because of his unique talents and gifts that pulls him closer to the occult, even though he is reluctant to believe that these events stem from anything divine. Of course the closer to the case he becomes the closer he becomes to being devoured by his own personal demons as he walks the line, kinda like Johnny Cash.

The movie is good, the scares are well timed and ominous, but my only gripe is that it is hard to commit to the events around the protagonist. Bana plays a man distressed by what is going on around him, but he never fears anything supernatural, and is calm and controlled even though death and demons are surrounding him at every turn. His personal development center around his coming of terms with his faith which is great if that’s the kind of movie you are looking for. Fear and terror are hard to sell if the big man on the screen keeps his wits about him, so for me this was more of a cop movie with horror elements.

If I were to look into The Catholicism side of the movie, I’d say I was relatively pleased. I had a foul taste left in my mouth by that older possession movie Stigmata that had come out 15 years ago. That movie didn’t do a great job of humanizing the faith and I felt that it was full of some new age Hollywood rhetoric that “faith is in the heart, and Jesus says if it feels good do it”. Kinda trite message. Deliver us from Evil does a good job at humanizing the men who wear the cloth, and point out good men can be tempted and seduced by evil works, but can seek the forgiveness of Christ’s eternal Love. Hypocritical, sure whatever, but let he who haven’t sinned cast the first stone yada yada. So Catholicism is making a comeback, hooray for Catholicism. Movies starring the Devil are not the same without you, and it’s good to have you back.