Director: Scott Derrikson
Stars: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, Joel McHale
Release date: August 22nd 2014
Ralph Sarchie is a New York cop with years on the force who thinks he has seen it all. But when a series of terrible crimes start to occur, he finds himself facing things he can’t explain and teams up with a priest to fight the ultimate evil.
Deliver Us From Evil may sound like a terrifying fiction but it’s actually based on a true story.
New York police officer Ralph Sarchie was on the streets in the Bronx for 16 years and he documented his work in a 2001 book called Beware the Night. In those pages, he recounts the crimes he witnessed but also delves into darker places, to the time he spent seeking out supernatural cases and assisting on real-life exorcisms.
It’s an incredible tale, and uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer – behind the Pirates of the Caribbean films – thought so too. He optioned the book for a movie version way back in 2004, and brought on a young writer called Scott Derrikson to work on the screenplay.
Almost 10 years passed until Derrikson had a hit with 2012’s Sinister and when asked what he wanted to work on next, he immediately thought of returning to Beware the Night, now retitled as Deliver Us From Evil.
The film’s most compelling element is the cross over between a cop thriller and a horror film – as Bruckhemier put it, ‘Serpico meets The Exorcist.’
Director Derrikson reaction was enthusiastic: “To combine a classic possession story with a classic cop procedural is a simple and brilliant idea. As we’ve worked on the film, it’s become a bit more of a ‘Seven meets The Exorcist though – it’s a possession/exorcism film, with also a dark, violent thriller.”
Audiences will see the character of Sarchie (played by acclaimed actor Eric Bana – Black Hawk Down) take to the streets with his partner Butler (Joel McHale – Community) on the trail of regular criminals. The sinister elements are introduced subtly, with the cop story slowly becoming altogether more supernatural.
The mix is brilliantly handled by director Derrikson, who also has experience on more conventional films like The Day the Earth Stood Still. There’s always a sense of keeping things grounded, and that’s helped immeasurably by the location shooting in the real areas in the Bronx where Sarchie worked.
“There is no place in the world like The Bronx. It has its own textures and history and there is a vibrant, dangerous quality to it. It’s just so dark and dank and cramped, and in the heat of the summer months, there’s a kind of menace to it.”
Balancing out the pragmatic cop played by Bana is a member of the cloth who is far from a typical priest character. Derrikson set his sights on Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramirez early on, based on his performance in miniseries Carlos. But it wasn’t easy getting him to commit: “He said no the first time he read the script, because he felt that the role was too simple and too traditional, and I very much agreed with him. So I asked him to meet with me, because at the very least I wanted to pick his brain about what was missing from the character.”
Derrikson and Ramirez went on to collaborate on the Mendoza character, who is actually a composite character – based on a number of religious figures in Sarchie’s life. As a Jesuit, he’s quite liberal-minded, bonding with Sarchie over shared life experiences and helping the cop on a path of forgiveness.
The film brings up significant questions of faith, ethics and morality and Ramirez doesn’t know if he believes but always tries to be ‘respectful.’ If anything, he sees the struggle in the film as a metaphor: “Exorcisms and possession and all of these things are metaphors of the eternal war between good and evil and how responsible we can be for the good things that we do, or the bad things that we do.”
Deliver Us From Evil is in cinemas from the 22nd of August 2014.