“There Is A Devil, Of This There Is No Doubt. But Is He Trying To Get In, Or Trying To Get Out?”
One of of the worst horror films that I can recall was 1978’s Cruise Into Terror. It’s been awhile, but I remember that it starred George Kennedy (going about things in his typically mildly-befuddled fashion) as the captain of a cruise ship.
The ship was also transporting a child-sized Egyptian sarcophagus for some reason. It contained an evil entity, perhaps even Satan itself. It never manifested physically, but it’s baneful influence was felt by everyone aboard the ship (kind of like Cthulhu-lite), till someone chucked it overboard.
Two things in particular stuck in my head: The first was that, when the sarcophagus was sinking to the ocean floor, you clearly see that whatever was within it was breathing (by the sides of the sarcophagus pulsing).
It wasn’t an accident, but it was particularly dumb because a sarcophagus is essentially a very ornate coffin, so the body within isn’t resting directing against it, never mind being constructed in such a fashion that that just isn’t possible.
Though the important thing to remember is that there’s no way to tell if an occupant was breathing or not from the outside.
The other thing was that, when Satan was on its way to Davy Jones’ Locker, a woman said ominously in voiceover: “There is a Devil, of this there’s no doubt. But is he trying to get in, or trying to get out?”
And do you know what? That simple line wedged itself in my teenaged mind, and in retrospect virtually redeemed everything about that damn waste of celluloid.
It’s also an apt line to begin a review of Scott Derrickson’s Deliver Us From Evil because the question is indeed whether Evil “is trying to get in, or trying to get out.”
What Derrickson’s movie tells us is that it’s a little of both.
Things begin with a combat mission during the Iraq conflict, and three soldiers are engaged with whom I assume are insurgents. They eventually stumble upon a bunker and the movie turns to a found-footage feature for a while, as we see what the soldiers do via the cameras on their helmets.
Early on I was confused what the Iraq scene has to do with the rest of the movie, but it’s made clear later.
Things move forward, via time and continents, as a few years later we encounter Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) and Butler (Joel McHale) who are New York City detectives. Sarchie apparently has an almost sixth sense for dangerous cases, which is good because Butler enjoys the buzz that comes from dealing with such cases.
I should mention that I don’t particularly care for Joel McHale. I know of him from his talk show, The Soup as well as Community, neither of which I particularly care for.
But you know what? McHale plays a badass really, really well. His character brought an edge, with his whip-sharp wit and physicality, to the movie to such a degree that whenever he wasn’t on screen, I just hoped that he would turn up again.
The first case we go on with the pair revolves around a woman who’d thrown her child into the lion’s area at the Bronx Zoo, which connects to everything else in a huge way, though at the time I wasn’t quite sure how Scott Derrickson was going to make all of it make sense.
But it actually works, and you’re along for the ride as the two detectives try to figure out how various, seeming unconnected cases, connect.
The movie also shows us Sarchie’s home life, though it’s not something that I particularly cared about, if only because the film lost momentum whenever he was dealing with his family, despite Derrickson’s efforts to make the presence of Sarchie’s wife, Jen (Olivia Munn) and daughter, Christina (Lulu Wilson) relevant to the plot.
I didn’t buy it, but it was a minor qualm.
All and all, Deliver Us From Evil is an entertaining ride, and would rate higher in my book if it weren’t for the elephant in the room, in the form a a huge plot threat that pretty much goes abandoned.
I can’t mention it here, because it’s a huge pivot that the movie revolves around, though since it’s not carried as far as it perhaps should have been, the movie suffers somewhat.