(On Cable TV, September 2015) I’m not sure there’s anything objectively wrong about Deliver us From Evil, but neither can I say that there’s anything exceptional about it. While there is some interest in tackling demonic possession as seen from the perspective of a hardened NYPD veteran, the film soon heads for familiar pastures, and doesn’t really get to show anything worthwhile. Eric Bana does fine work as the cop protagonist, with Olivia Munn and Joel McHale turning in short yet credible dramatic presences, but all of them are overshadowed by Edgar Ramirez’s compelling turn as an unusual priest facing ultimate evil. Director Scott Derrickson follows-up his much superior Sinister with a decent atmosphere (grimy and dark and realistic and, alas, rather dull), but the script is too derivative to be particularly interesting. Too long at nearly two hours for the rather slight amount of substance it contains, Deliver Us From Evil ends up being a middle-of-the-road hybrid between police procedural and demonic possession horror, something that works well enough to escape mediocrity, but not enough to leave an impression.
(On Cable TV, October 2013) There are so many average horror movies out there that finding a decent one always seem like an achievement. Sinister may not be exceptionally made or all that elegantly plotted, but it’s effective at what it tries to accomplish, and it manages a few dreadful moments along the way. The story of a true-crime writer who comes to discover a supernatural serial killer, Sinister effectively sets up its premise and doesn’t waste a lot of time before unspooling its horror. Audiences are likely to be as fascinated and repulsed as the protagonist in watching grisly Super-8 movies showing a few families’ final moments. Sinister is a knowing horror film in that it manages to exploit a few well-establish tropes, upend a few others and twist a few more. It doesn’t break out of the genre and has little meaningful social commentary to offer, but it creates a great atmosphere, a few jump scares, a relatively fresh take on classic material and some disturbing visual imagery. The ending may be unsurprising, but it builds to a crescendo that matches good visuals with a fine sense of pacing. Ethan Hawke doesn’t embarrass himself as the obsessed protagonist, while writer/director Scott Derrickson hits his intended targets –an underestimated skill in the horror genre. Worth seeing, although perhaps not by the entire family!