Scott Derrickson’s Sinister still remains one of the best horror films of this decade. It was an endlessly creepy film, filled with truly disturbing images and a knockout performance from Ethan Hawke. While the script had its fair share of clichés, Derrickson did an excellent job of milking even the most familiar scare tactics for maximum effect. His follow up, Deliver Us from Evil, takes a very different approach. It’s less a horror film and more a crime thriller mixed with some of the familiar tropes of an exorcism flick. Think Se7en meets The Exorcist. Unlike in his previous film, Derrickson relies too heavily on false jump scares to keep the audience on their toes, but he still has a knack for producing frightening visual imagery and this film has more than enough of that to satisfy horror fans. Deliver Us from Evil is a dirty, pulpy and sloppy mess, just like it should be.

Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a New York cop who spends too much time on the job and not enough time with his family. He and his partner Butler (Joel McHale) patrol the streets and stumble upon several cases that may be connected with each other. They encounter a woman at the zoo who threw her son into the lion enclosure after a mysterious man gave her a signal to do so. A priest named Father Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez) believes that this woman is suffering from demonic possession, but Sarchie is a skeptic who no longer believes in religion. He continues investigating these bizarre crimes and discovers that they are all connected to three war veterans who may have encountered something evil in Iraq. As Sarchie begins further probing the depths of evil, his wife (Olivia Munn) and daughter may end up being put into the crosshairs.

It’s refreshing to see a film mix genres the way that Deliver Us from Evil does. We’ve had so many exorcism films in the last several years, but setting it inside a police/detective story somehow helps it avoid a feeling of repetition. There are a few scares that feel like they could belong in any basic horror film, but a good majority of them arise naturally out of the characters and unique setting of the story. The story, which is actually pretty interesting to begin with, benefits greatly from the disturbing images and great sound design that permeate throughout the film. The frequent use of music by The Doors is also a nice addition; classic rock songs that I’ve heard dozens of times before suddenly took on a much darker, sinister tone.

Derrickson, who has seemed like such a confident, assured horror director in the past, slips into too many amateurish ways in this outing. There are too many false jump scares, intended to scare the audience simply by creating a loud noise during a quiet, suspenseful moment. The loud growl of a bear, the hissing meow of a cat and the ferocious barking of a dog all come out of nowhere in an attempt to scare viewers. While these moments did make me jump, they felt incredibly lazy and below the rest of the film. Jump scares can be fantastic when used effectively, but throwing as many as possible onto the screen when they don’t need to be there is a classic horror movie mistake. One jump scare in the film that actually works occurs when Sarchie is watching security camera footage. A truly disturbing image flashes onto the screen and it’s frightening, not only because of the loud noise that accompanies it, but because the image that we see is actually scary.

Even with some cheap scare tactics, I found myself invested in this story, wanting to discover what was going to happen next. The characters may have been developed pretty bluntly, but I actually cared about them and wanted to see them reach a happy ending. It’s a little too long and Bana’s accent comes off rather strong at times, but Deliver Us from Evil succeeds because of its unique perspective and interesting story. Exorcism films may be growing stale, but they’re not quite dead yet.

Deliver Us from Evil receives 2.5/4

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