[Screen It]


(2014) (Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez) (R)

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Horror: A skeptical NYPD cop and an unorthodox priest team together to combat what may be cases of demonic possessions occurring around them.
NYPD Sgt. Ralph Sarchie (ERIC BANA) has seen a lot during his beat patrolling rough neighborhoods in the South Bronx with his sarcastic cop partner Butler (JOEL McHALE). Married to Jen (OLIVIA MUNN) with whom he has a young daughter, Christina (LULU WILSON), Ralph pays more attention to work than them and has something of a sixth sense when it comes to receiving vibes about bad things.

That's recently included a few children being killed or put into harm's way, something that irritates Ralph to no end, and that somehow revolve around three former U.S. Marines, Jimmy (CHRIS COY), Mick Santino (SEAN HARRIS) and Lt. Griggs (SCOTT JOHNSEN), who served together in Iraq a few years earlier, encountered something there, and returned as changed men.

Unorthodox Jesuit priest Joe Mendoza (EDGAR RAMÍREZ) is sure all of that has something to do with demonic possession, especially when a woman he knows, Jane (OLIVIA HORTON), appears afflicted with just that. Yet, Ralph doesn't believe any of it, despite growing up as an altar boy.

But when he starts hearing things no one else does -- including static and children's voices on his police radio as well as old songs by The Doors -- he soon begins to believe that perhaps there is something otherworldly and even potentially dangerous behind the recent odd occurrences. He and Joe then team up to figure that out, all while Ralph's family ends up in danger from something supernatural lurking in their house.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
It's always interesting to see how movie studios promote their works. Words such as "based on" (a book, a play, a song, etc.), "inspired by" (pretty much anything, although I doubt that would ever include "what I had for lunch yesterday") and so on are used in hopes of luring in audiences.

It would appear that such promotional departments believe that such wording will draw in viewers who favor movies featuring semblances of something "real" versus those completely made up. I've always wondered if there have been any studies to support or debunk such marketing, but there's no denying that it's a common practice, especially related to horror films.

The latest to get an "inspired by" marketing push is "Deliver Us From Evil," a movie that is "inspired by the actual accounts of an NYPD sergeant" but not "based on" the book of the same name by popular novelist David Baldacci. Instead, it stems from the book "Beware the Night" by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool, a 2001 novel about "the terrifying true story of demonic possession and exorcism in a city under diabolical siege." Sarchie is the 26-year NYPD veteran turned demonologist who reportedly was trained in part by Ed and Lorraine Warren, American paranormal investigators best known for their work with the Amityville haunting.

Of course, and in the end, it doesn't make a hill of beans if a horror film is "inspired by" or "based on" anything, true or fabricated. What matter is whether the resultant film is creepy, scary and maybe will even keep you up at night, worrying about every little noise you might hear coming from some dark corner. In that regard, writer/director Scott Derrickson ("Sinister," "The Exorcism of Emily Rose") & co-writer Paul Harris Boardman do their best to bring Sarchie's tale to the big screen and creep you out in the process.

Based on having just sat through the entirely too long (nearly 2 hours) offering, I sort of feel that it should have been called "Walking With Flashlights" as that's what Sarchie (portrayed here by a criminally wasted Eric Bana) and his cop partner (Joel McHale) do for various scenes due to the spooky instigators lurking about apparently not liking electric lights. Of course, that's all designed to tense up viewers who will be expecting to receive a jolt either from the flashlight beam suddenly illuminating something disturbing or scary, or simply having something jump out at the camera.

If you're a fan of what we've always called "jump scenes," you'll likely enjoy them in all of their plentitude. Yet, for those who like their supernaturally tinged movies to get under their skin and burrow into their psyche, this overwrought drama will feel far too derivative of similar past works.

And the granddaddy of them all is "The Exorcist," a truly creepy and shocking horror film that not only still stands the test of time even after all of these years (41 to be exact), but has yet to be surpassed by any number of poseurs and wannabes whose sole desire is to rip that demonic crown off William Friedkin's legendary film.

In the end, you'll likely add your own "inspired by" label to this film and that will probably be something along the lines of "Inspired by the movie 'The Exorcist.'" "Deliver Us From Evil" needed to be delivered from the standard tropes of the demon possession and exorcism horror genre. It rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed July 1, 2014 / Posted July 2, 2014

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