Based on the 2001 book Beware the Night by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool, this film claims that it was inspired by the actual accounts of an NYPD sergeant, a throwback to 1970’s Satanic film. Directed by Scott Derrickson (Dr. Strange, Sinister), it’s a stylish modern take on those films and their various tropes.
Where those 70’s shockers dealt with the spectre of Vietnam and society’s changing views of religion, this film takes the PTSD afflicted survivors of Iraq and posits occult reasons for their suicidal and murderous urges. NYPD office Raphie Sarchie (Eric Bana, Hulk) and partner Butler (Joel McHale, Community) work the dangerous streets of the 46th precinct, a place where the veteran office recounts finding dead infants in dumpsters and real-life horror in every alley.
A domestic disturbance call brings them into the world of Jimmy Tratner, a marine that has beaten his wife and whose home has scratch marks all over it. They assume that the man is on drugs or has gone insane as they make an arrest.
Before they get a chance to rest, they’re called to the Bronx Zoo, where a woman literally threw her son to the lions. The power is down, a stranger painter has released the lions that he talks to and the woman scratches at the ground reciting lyrics from The Doors (an interesting inclusion due to the witchcraft behind their lyrics, such as the inversion of Morrison’s name to Mr. Mojo Risin and the Boys from Brazil urban legend of multiple Morrisons being alive all at the same time).
The woman from the zoo is transferred to a mental health facility and her family asks that a Jesuit named Mendoza help, which leads to us learning that Ralph has issues with religion.
Another call to a house where a family will not leave the living room leads to a possessed basement where that woman’s husband, David Griggs, was a painter. His dead body — filled with maggots and flies — emerges from a wall in a great scare. They learn that Santino, a Marine commander, was the painter at the zoo. This scene is rich with occult imagery — strange voices, lightbulbs being instantly extinguished and static coming from the police band.
As Ralph gets deeper into the case, he discovers hidden owl iconography, Doors lyrics and more static at each crime scene. There are some effective slices of gruesomeness here, such as the look of Santino and strange bursts of gore, like a crucified cat. And the horror has followed him home, haunting his daughter.
After deciding to work with Mendoza, they learn that Ralph has an instinctive radar for the dark side. The three men track Santino and Jimmy. The former overcomes and kills Butler (who did not die in the original cut of the film) and the latter is stopped by the power of a crucifix.
Santino escapes, taking Ralph’s wife and daughter hostage. An exorcism is performed and all works out fine, including Ralph’s return to the Catholic faith as he baptizes his second child.
Deliver Us from Evil suggests the start of a new Insidious style franchise, which didn’t happen, but still leaves us with a modern take on The Exorcist. It’s more stylish and somewhat better than you’d expect, which has led to frequent rewatching in the B and S About Movies household. That says volumes, as most modern horror is barely mentioned in this homestead!