There is an old joke that goes something like, “Can a Christian have a demon?” The answer of course is “Why would you want one?” A similar question, “Can a horror story be redemptive?” will be asked regarding the new thriller/horror movie, “Deliver Us from Evil.” The answer here is “Yes.”
Scott Derrickson, the writer and director of “Deliver Us from Evil” is also the man behind such scary fare as “Sinister” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” He is also a Christian. So, why would a Christian want to be involved in horror films?
In 2005, Derrickson told Peter T. Chattaway of Christianity Today, “In my opinion, the horror genre is a perfect genre for Christians to be involved with. I think the more compelling question is, ‘Why do so many Christians find it odd that a Christian would be working in this genre?’ To me, this genre deals more overtly with the supernatural than any other genre, it tackles issues of good and evil more than any other genre, it distinguishes and articulates the essence of good and evil better than any other genre, and my feeling is that a lot of Christians are wary of this genre simply because it’s unpleasant. The genre is not about making you feel good, it is about making you face your fears. And in my experience, that’s something that a lot of Christians don’t want to do.”
In “Deliver Us from Evil,” New York police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) and his partner (a surprisingly good Joel McHale) investigate a series of strange and disturbing crimes in the Bronx and find that they are not only related, but are also demonic in nature. Sarchie was raised Catholic, but “outgrew” his faith at the age of 12. With these new crimes, he might be willing to reconsider. Reluctantly, Sarchie teams up with an unconventional priest, Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez) who is schooled in the rituals of exorcism. Like most police dramas, Sarchie struggles with his work/life balance leaving his wife Jen (Olivia Munn) to deal with their daughter’s fears of a boogie man alone.
So, is “Deliver Us from Evil” a Christian film? Not in the traditional sense. It is rated “R” for violence and language and will cause some to sleep with the lights on when they get home. It features many scenes that will most viewers jump and few that will make some cringe. Don’t expect many churches to show the film for “movie night” when it comes out on DVD. However, the story deals with some spiritual issues not usually found in such a movie. Sarchie deals with some of his own personal demons with the help of Mendoza, who shares about God’s forgiveness.
In addition, Ralph Sarchie and Father Mendoza ARE real people and the movie is inspired by real events that both have witnessed in real life. Some are taken from Sarchie’s book, “Beware the Night,” but it is hard to know just what in the story is considered true and what was added to make the story scarier. For instance, do windows really shatter because of a demonic presence? The scenes involving exorcism are fairly consistent with real footage that you can find from other sources and it is said that Eric Bana watched many for research before taking on the role. Not all skeptics will be on board with this one. At the very least, this film will make you think a little differently about mental illness and how much true evil plays out in our real world.