Movie Review: ‘Evil’ delivers, despite double dose of clichés

The writing on the wall: Eric Bana in “Deliver Us from Evil.”
The writing on the wall: Eric Bana in “Deliver Us from Evil.”

“Deliver Us from Evil”
★★ 1/2

The hit-and-miss detective/horror thriller “Deliver Us from Evil” comes with a double helping of clichés, but at least the back-and-forth genre hopping keeps it fairly lively.

And it helps that writer/director Scott Derrickson, whose previous horror hit “Sinister” featured a similarly mixed batch of scares and nonsense, knows how to milk those clichés for all they’re worth.

Dubiously based on the memoir of NYPD detective turned demonologist (there’s a consultancy you don’t see every day) Ralph Sarchie, “Deliver” features Eric Bana (“The Hulk,” “Munich”) taking a quite-serious approach to the role, though the Australian actor’s Noo Yawk accent comes and goes.

Sarchie, who has an almost psychic knack for selecting the freakiest cases, and his comic-relief, adrenaline-junkie partner Butler (Joel McHale of TV’s “Community”) soon find themselves investigating a deranged mom (Olivia Horton) who threw her baby into the lion’s den of the Bronx Zoo. The tragedy may or may not something to do with the freakazoid-in-a-hoodie rolling paint on a nearby wall at the time. Or with the dishonorably discharged members of an American patrol in Iraq Sarchie also encounters — as criminals and corpses.

Sarchie also makes the acquaintance of the whisky-drinking, chain-smoking, smolderingly sexy street priest Father Mendoza (Édgar Ramirez) of the terrorist trilogy “Carlos the Jackal,” who tries to convince him that the deranged mom was in fact a victim of demonic possession.

The lapsed-Catholic detective disregards that suggestion until evidence starts to pile up in the form of visual and auditory hallucinations, creepy Latin writing inscriptions on walls and deranged-mom’s inexplicable knowledge of his own dark past. The clincher, though, is the way freaky-hoodie-guy begins to psychically (and otherwise) threaten his neglected wife and daughter (Olivia Munn and Lulu Wilson).

“Deliver” is dark, dark, dark from beginning to end — thematically, of course, but also in terms of murky photography. It’s also well-stocked with jump-scares and gross-outs, including scuttling cockroaches, maggot-infested dead bodies and puddles of ooze. It concludes with an exorcism scene that runs through the usual litany of demon hijinks, but pulls out all the stops while doing so.

Strictly paint-by-numbers stuff, the whole business, but at least it’s painted with conviction.

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The writing on the wall: Eric Bana in “Deliver Us from Evil.”

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