It begins with a scene from the Iraq war that ends in three soldiers screaming their way to oblivion. As though the title weren't enough, this establishes the otherworldly premise of the film pretty firmly.
Cut to the next scene, and you have NYPD cops Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) and Butler (Joel McHale) who happen upon a baby's corpse in a dumpster, and are now required to investigate it.
Next up are a man who beats his wife to near-death, a woman who inexplicably tosses her toddler into a lion's cage at the zoo, and a Mexican family afraid of things going bump in the night only for the cops to find a maggot-infested bloated corpse in their basement.
Life is horrible, Sarchie and Butler accept, but hey, shit happens, right?
Turns out, not, because Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), a Spanish priest, is convinced that all these events are related, and are the result of Primary Evil, aka demonic possession.
After the third case of the woman at the zoo, Mendoza, who is acquainted with the woman, drops by at Sarchie's office to let him know of his own suspicions. Initially as skeptical as any good, lapsed Catholic should be, Sarchie soon starts investigating further because of a death wish the movie doesn't want to get into, and you, the audience, get a taut thriller that promises a world of gory delights to ruin at least a fortnight's worth of sleep.
That is, until the makers decided they wanted to turn everyone involved into cartoons.
Up until about two-thirds of the movie, even though you have all the demon movie tropes that you can think of if given 10 seconds, you get a cop-drama-cum-demon-hunting movie where Ralph Sarchie comes off as enough of a badass that you wouldn't be surprised if the demons shift allegiance right then.
The gore is actually unsettling, and the pacing makes the most clichéd of jump-scares scary enough to make you wary of going to the loo by yourself. The dialogue is catchy and provides an interesting counterpoint to the dreary landscape of approaching evil. Sure, you have scenes hammy enough to deserve having the word SYMBOLISM stamped on them in big red letters, but they too feel like part of the fun.
The film spins many threads that seem to be going in an infinitely more interesting direction. As it turns out, the film itself takes a sharp turn to an ending that is so utterly moronic, you do not have the time to be bored as you try to come to terms with the idiocy occurring on screen, right up until the final scene.
Sarchie has a wife Jen (Olivia Munn) and a criminally ignored daughter Christina (Lulu Wilson), neither of who play more of a part in the movie than as captchas to establish the fact that Sarchie is a real human being and not the supernatural bot that he is portrayed to be.
However, despite going from quite-easily-watchable to utterly laughable within seconds, Deliver Us From Evil finds redemption by way of its surprisingly good cast.
Eric Bana gives a thoroughly magnetic performance, making you root for him even when his character is clearly being a complete idiot. Edgar Ramirez is equally compelling, finding the right balance between demon-killing-badass and holy priest. Sean Harris, Olivia Munn and the rest are exactly right for their parts.
The sound is thoroughly campy, and goes from being just a bit unsettling to just boring and repetitive. The camera and light effects make full use of horror movie tropes, but are eventually effective. There comes a point in every horror movie where you just start watching the shadows to catch something sinister before it hits you. This one sets you doing that pretty early.
Based on the (what else) true story of NYPD-cop-turned-demon-hunter Ralph Sarchie, Deliver Us From Evil is a movie that promises quite a lot, and then fails to, um, deliver.