Deliver us from Evil (2014)

Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Sean Harris, Olivia Munn, Joel McHale, Chris Coy, Olivia Horton

Directed by: Scott Derrickson

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Eric Bana as Ralph Sarchie in Deliver Us From Evil

What do you get if you cross The Exorcist with Se7en? Well, to be honest, something not as good as either of them – but something well worth watching all the same in a summer of family-friendly fodder that's seen me more or less absent from the cinema for months.

Eric Bana plays Ralph Sarchie (a real person, otherwise they'd have given him a better name), a rugged New York cop who adheres assiduously to all the usual clichés (cares too much about his job to the detriment of his pretty wife and cute kid, experiences mysterious 'hunches' when things are about to go badly wrong, exchanges manly banter with his cocky cop partner before running down suspects and beating them up, etc.) But when a week that begins with fishing a dead baby out of a dumpster manages to get worse, this world-weary upholder of law and order is compelled to admit that dark forces beyond his ken may be at work.

Édgar Ramírez as Father Mendoza in Deliver us from Evil

Step up Father Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez), an anti-cliché of the Antichrist expulsion league, a chain-smoking, whisky-swilling ex-junkie whose faith is as unshakeable as his hair is cool. Lapsed Catholic Sarchie is at first unwilling to trust him. But who else is going to help him translate weird Latin invocations and communicate with a Regan-esque mother who has (literally) thrown her young child to the lions?

But it's not just the make-up department that owes a debt to William Friedkin's horror masterpiece. Like The Exorcist, this film places the origins of primary evil in the Middle East, where it is uncovered not by archaeologists but by three marines. (Political statement or plot device? You decide.) Let's just say, on their return, dishonourably discharged, to the Bronx, they bring back more than just sand in their boots.

Sean Harris as possessed marine Marc Santino in Deliver us from Evil

As possessed marine Santino, Sean Harris continues to be the go-to guy for twisted psychopaths with back stories. Barely human looking, he gives a viscerally intense performance, presenting us with the scariest on-screen monster since, well, he played the Creep in Creep. While Bana and Ramírez do a stalwart job, the film really belongs to Harris, and his inevitable exorcism is quite a tour de force.

Gritty, dark (very dark – it's apparently never daylight in the Bronx) and compelling throughout its fairly lengthy two hour running time, Deliver us from Evil is that rare thing at the multiplex, a grown up horror film. So no snogging teenagers, no postmodern, self-referential quips (even in the bit that actually does look like an out-take from Scooby Doo – you'll know it when you see it) and no stupid jump-scares that turn out to be a bird or a banging window frame. In this film, if something makes you jump (and it will) it's because something fairly nasty has just happened.

Yes, Deliver us from Evil takes itself a bit too seriously at times, and it loses a star for the daft associations between the burgeoning hellmouth supposedly gaping under the Bronx and the music of the Doors, which made me laugh every time it came up (and besides, everyone knows 'People Are Strange' belongs to The Lost Boys). But otherwise this is a strong, workmanlike horror film, well-cast, well-paced and gooey enough with gore to keep me happy. Deliver us from summer blockbuster season? This just might.

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