Deliver Us from Evil (2014) – movie review

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Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

Directed by Scott Derrickson

Eric Bana
Édgar Ramírez
Sean Harris
Olivia Munn
Joel McHale

You know, I don’t care that everyone jumped on this movie to give it bad reviews. I liked the movie. I’ve read all kinds of things about this film like, it’s cliché – what did they expect, a demon possession movie that didn’t have an exorcism in it? Or that the acting was bad – Did they want Eric Bana, who plays a NYC Detective to get all excited and jump around when he found a dead body? And, I said the same thing about young people not liking The Exorcist; you have to believe in something (other than your own greatness), in order for this film to be effectivdeliver us from evil 2014 postere. If you have no religious beliefs at all, then the film is a mute point. Most of all, I think the problem all the young ‘uns are having with the film is it’s not full of dazzling CGI effects and explosive action. (sorry kids, no explosions in this film).

(slight spoilers)
Eric Banner plays, Detective Ralph Sarchie, a NY special unit detective drawn into an occult investigation. A series of inexplicable murders- beginning with the murder of two babies- begins a trail of death throughout the Bronx. He is approached by a Jesuit Priest concerning the incidents, but he dismisses the holy man. Being a cop, he deals in fact, not superstition. It isn’t long before he discovers he needs the man’s help as strange events escalate. The investigation unfolds in increments as seemingly separate cases mesh into one big picture that the detective cannot deny. I was hooked on the cop story because Ralph Sarchie is a well developed character with a back-story to unravel and faults as great as his strengths. In this way it holds a kinship to films like Se7en and Silence of the Lambs.

There is a full-blown exorcism ritual in the film portrayed in a more gratifying manner than all the recent exorcism films such as, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Possession, and The Unborn. But most of all, I would compare this film to The Exorcist III, where an investigation into evil leads to more than the detective bargained for, and puts his own life and his loved ones in danger. I wouldn’t say the dialog is as good as E3 but there are many similarities. There’s some damn creepy atmosphere in the film, especially in scenes at Tdeliver us from evil 2014 pic 1he Bronx Zoo, and at the suspect’s apartment building. (end of spoilers)

The film is not wholly scary (what film is these days), but the detective angle makes for an intriguing story-line and fluid pace. There’s no (noticeable) CGI in the film and not much special effects. The dark, dank streets of a rainy Bronx neighborhood are creepy enough to carry the film. It keeps one foot firmly planted in reality because of this.

While the film offers nothing groundbreaking to its own genre (I‘ll admit); much like The Conjuring, it assembles the familiar in a way that is entertaining. When you’ve been watching horror movies for as long as I have, you have pretty much seen it all. It’s rare that you see something totally original. Eventually what you look for is the presentation–good characterization, good writing and good acting. To me, this film had all three. I would put it near the top of exorcism films, very close to, but under, The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

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A supernatural horror and cop-show mash-up worth viewing for those who like both genres.

I give it a 4.0 possessed punks on the scale of creepy cop capers!

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The ‘This film is based on a true story’ moniker is a half truth. The film is based on a true person, Ralph Sarchie, a veteran cop on the NYPD that left his job fighting evil people, to fight evil itself.

The 2001 book entitled ‘Beware the Night’ by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool, covers several (unconnected) events that Sarchie has dealt with, plus his own reconciliation with God. There’s a great excerpt from the book on the Amazon page and many reviews state that the book is terrifying.

You can check it out here:
http://www.amazon.com/Beware-Night-Ralph-Sarchie/dp/0312977379

 

The Exorcist Legacy – Films on Exorcism and Possession – part I

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The Exorcist Legacy –
Films on Exorcism & Possession – Part 1

Reviews of – The Exorcist, The Exorcist II, The Exorcist III, The Exorcist: The Beginning, Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, and The AntiChrist…

the exorcist posterThe Exorcist (1973)
directed by William Friedkin
written by William Peter Blatty
I realize, that for most younger generations watching this, the impact isn’t nearly what it was when it had been released. Previous to this film, special effects in paranormal films were not as physical, usually consisting of a man in make-up and costume, chasing victims through scary castles or science labs. Likewise, there had never been a film that concentrated on the audio aspect as much as this one; audio design and fear inducing sound-effects crafted in the sound studio (including creative vocalizations of voice-over master, Mercedes McCambridge). Lastly, the US population in the early 1970’s was witness to some extreme horrors of their time. Charles Manson and the rise of strange cults, the horrors of the Vietnam War, the impeachment of a President, all shattered the pristine façade of our nation and all contributed to the belief that the devil had a real hand in social matters. Add to that, the Catholic Church was still doing masses in Latin and an air of mystery surrounded their masses. More people attended church every Sunday, prayed at night before bed and followed their religion closely. So, when the devil appeared inside an innocent little girl, in a bedroom of a normal neighborhood, it was terrifying. You have to believe in something in order for this film to affect you – just like you have to believe in the crucifix in order to stop a vampire.

Since then we have seen every effects gag from The Exorcist recopied a hundred times and most times not as good (I can see the wires). When you see someone reveal a magic trick, it’s not as impressive, is it? The horror-comedies, black comedies, and campy horror flicks of the 1980’s gave the horror film a less serious tone, to the point were people rooted for the bad guy, were thrilled at gore effects, and the lacerations, cuts and destruction of the flesh were applauded – rather than considered frightening. I think people these days have little empathy – if it’s not my problem, then it’s not serious. If anybody that has not seen this attempts to watch it, I would recommend you to get this mindset: The little girl in The Exorcist could be your sister, your daughter, your neighbor or your friend. Most of us either don’t believe the devil is real or don’t know if the devil is real – open your mind to the possibility – then watch this film.
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Exorcist_II_movie_poster-The Exorcist II (1977)
The Exorcist II: The Heretic follows Regan as a young teen with psychological and social problems, going through hypnosis to help face her demons. It is entirely dependent on flashbacks and scenes from the original Exorcist film. All the new footage is extremely lame and confusing. The story is convoluted beyond comprehension and you’ll be hard pressed to find an actual plot. Having been freed from the evil entity that possesed her many years ago, she now has to be freed from the memory that lies dormant in her brain? Is that what this film is all about? This film is not made very well and what you end up with is a heaping pile of dung. Avoid it like a possessed teen avoiding a crucifix.
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The_Exorcist_III coverThe Exorcist III (1990)
Many people dismissed this film after a disappointing E2 thinking it would be more rehashed ideas and reused footage. But, William Peter Blatty returned as writer and took on the director’s hat to delivery a chilling crime drama/supernatural thriller. The story follows detective, William Kinderman, (George C. Scott) on an investigation into what he thinks is copycat killings with a distinct anti-religious tone to them. What he eventually finds is the body of Damien Carras – the priest who threw himself from the window at the end of The Exorcist, alive despite having been buried some 15 years earlier. Through a series of interrogations he begins to believe what the Damien character says to him; that he is actually the serial killer, The Gemini,  who had been killed many years ago, and was now alive in the body of Damien Carras. There is an exorcism at the end of this movie but it is short and it is not the focus of the film. If you go into it not expecting a full-blown Regan-revisited exorcism, then you may enjoy this fantastic film that is more closely styled like Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, with a supernatural bent. Great script, great acting.
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exorcist the beginning posterExorcist: The Beginning (2004)
Directed by Renny Harlin
This version of the prequel was made on decision from Morgan Creek Production executives to rework, refilm, and re-edit, Paul Schrader’s completed ‘Dominion’ prequel, for fear that it would not be successful in its current state. After this release was a box-office flop, they allowed Shrader to release his original version on DVD. See the next review in this series for more about that one. This film finds Father Merrin as a young man who, after witnessing atrocities of Nazi Germany, has lost his faith. However, still considered an expert on religious artifacts and architecture, he is called to Africa by a British funded archaeological expedition to catalog and confirm the artifacts in a long buried church from 500 AD. What he discovers when he gets there is a church built directly on top of a Satanic Altar, where we see the large statue of Pazuzu – the same demon statue seen in The Exorcist. A young native boy enters the dig site and is later possessed, but all is not as it seems. Strange events build around the dig crew and the local native tribe, escalating to the inevitable exorcism in the last ten minutes of the film. If you are looking for a repeat of the original film or something similar, you will be disappointed. I found the film highly interesting and well-written, unfolding slowly and raising tension as you watch. I really felt the influence of evil spreading and ripping the characters lives’ apart. Naturally, we know that Father Merrin finds his faith again. I would say the film was very good. However, since it was in a foreign land, in unfamiliar surroundings, and in situations I will never find myself, it was ultimately less successful at getting me fearful. The original brought the terror into the bedroom of everyone’s home.
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dominion exorcist prequelDominion: Prequel to The Exorcist (2005)
Directed by Paul Schrader

This film finds Father Merrin as a young man who, after witnessing atrocities of Nazi Germany, has lost his faith. He is still considered an expert on religious artifacts and architecture and is currently on a dig in Africa. He confirms what is found is a long buried church from 500 AD. One of the tribesmen workers, a teenager, is badly hurt and sent to the infirmary. There he begins to show unusual behavior. Aside from having different cast members for some characters, the film follows the same plot as The Beginning. However, I find this version slow and plodding, to the point of boredom. Merrin does the exorcism and the tension between the British Troops and the Native tribe subsides with little bloodshed – a far cry from the all out battle that ensues in the other version. The teen that is finally exorcised at the end of the film, floats around like a mystic swami rather than a possessed individual. No disrespect to Schrader but I prefer the other version and I would recommend ‘The Beginning’ over ’Dominion’ to those looking for exorcism films.
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In my next post where I offer reviews of films that were influenced or even copy-cat plots to arise out of the success of The Exorcist

And for a preview of that future post, I offer the following:

the-antichrist posterThe Antichrist (1974)
Directed by Alberto De Martino

Despite being called another rip-off of The Exorcist, The Antichrist does have original ideas and imagery in it. For one, the story of why this crippled woman is possessed, which comes out when she is hypnotized by a psychiatrist, is that she had been a witch in a past life. There are some bizarre visuals in flashbacks of the ancient rituals including the infamous goat scene which is still shocking and disturbing today. It is not a bad film, but it is deeply rooted in Italian style filmmaking where sometimes, to me, some things are lost in translation. Some of the visuals are fantastic and worth the once through especially for fans of gallio, but I still wouldn’t consider it a great film. However, I do own the film, if that helps your decision of whether to watch it or not.
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Not Exorcism Films:

Lorna: The Exorcist  (Jesse Franco) (1974)
Lorna: the Exorcist, is not an exorcism movie at all, has no exorcism in it and had its original title changed when released in the US in 1974, to capitalize on the success of The Exorcist.

It is or It isn’t:

House of Exorcism  (Micky Lion/Bava) (1974)
This film is actually Mario Bava’s film called, Lisa and the Devil, with added footage and heavy editing to turn the film into an exorcism film – once again to capitalize on the success of The Exorcist. Bava refused to direct the new footage and editing, and the film suffered, becoming incoherent in story and a blatant ride on the coat tails of William Peter Blatly’s infamous film. Lisa and The Devil is a strange but decent movie worth watching. House of Exorcism isn’t.
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Gallery:

Tune in to part -II of ‘The Exorcist Legacy – Films on Exorcism and Possession’

The Last Exorcism – (2010) – movie review

The Last Exorcism – (2010) – movie review
The Last Exorcism is a mock-documentary about a popular evangelist preacher, ‘Cotton’ Marcus, who is part showman, part spiritual cheerleader. He brings a reporter and cameraman into his world to show them the inner workings and daily activities of a bible-belt preacher. He admits to the reporter that although he has spent many years preaching and doing exorcisms, he does not believe in demons, ghosts or other worldly entities. A personal crisis with his own son coincides with a tragic event in Texas where a young boy was killed during an exorcism event. This event was the epiphany that made Cotton Marcus want to reveal himself as a showman, as well as, all the other self-proclaimed preachers doing exorcisms in the south. Cotton hopes to expose the falseness of exorcisms so that people will understand that they should not put their children at risk in the hands of preachers over medical professionals. Cotton invites the news crew on an exorcism, picked randomly from a stack of letters requesting spiritual intervention on behalf of loved ones. They travel to the Sweetzer farm in the Deep South to perform this exorcism charade upon a teenage girl. The film then twists and turns leading the viewer to constantly change opinions about the possessed girl as the pendulum swings both ways, in favor for an actual possession, or just a psychologically disturbed teen.

The film is impressively filmed and directed by Daniel Stamm and the lead actor, Patrick Fabian (Cotton Marcus), is charismatic and entertaining. Likewise, Ashley Bell delivered a convincing performance as Nell, the possessed teen. In most exorcism films, it is all about the last 20 minutes but this one has creepy scenes and chills that held my interest throughout. In fact, the exorcism starts about halfway through the film. The Last Exorcism has a bizarre ending like no other exorcism movie. While some viewers did not like the surprise ending, I did like it. It took a familiar film genre and entwined a new aspect into it. There have been many exorcism films made in the last 10-12 years. I like this one better than most of the glossy, slick production films of the same genre that have been released.

  

The Devil’s Rock – (2012) – movie review

The Devil’s Rock – (2012)

It would be rare to find a movie that has only three characters yet, could intrigue me the way that The Devil’s Rock did. I knew little about the movie. The cover art resembled a Marylyn Manson video. But shortly into the film, I noticed that I was hanging on to every word. It is not a high-action, horror-war movie, or a Nazi-zombie flick. It is an intimate film that engrosses you with tense dialogue and sharp characters.

The film takes place on the day before D-day, during WWII, in 1944. Two British soldiers are assigned to neutralize a German bunker on one of the French Channel Islands. As they approach the bunker they hear the screams of a woman prisoner. Upon entering the complex they discover most of the German soldiers and Nazi’s to be dead. The only surviving officer, Colonel Klaus Meyers, quickly dispatches one of the Brits but captures soldier, Ben Grogan, alive. Grogan discovers that Colonel Meyers is the head of the Nazi division that investigates occult powers for the purpose of using them to win the war. However, it seems that the Colonel’s newly occult conjured guest is a bit unruly and has gotten the better of his team. He now has to convince Grogan to help him perform a ritual, which takes two people, to send the demon back to where it came from. To complicate matters, the chained-up demon takes on the visage of an innocent, British woman, and contradicts everything the Nazi colonel says. The film turns into a screw-turning, three-way battle of wits that keeps you on the edge. (I’ve left a few details out so as not to be a total spoiler).

This is a well-written script with strong characters and exceptional acting. The impressive looking demon is a fine example of what good prosthetics and make-up can do and proves that you do not need overblown CGI or even a large budget to make an effective horror movie. (Scy-fy channel should take a lesson from this film and ‘can’ all the lousy CG). I like that the make-up still retains the features of the character and is not overdone.  This film reminds me a bit of The Exorcist III, with George C. Scott because the plot of this film is driven by dialogue. If you liked that film, and/or House of the Devil, you will most likely enjoy The Devil’s Rock. I was pleasantly surprised.

 

 

Ouija boards & Witchboards – fact or fiction – part I

 

 Ouija Boards – fact or fiction

I recently purchased the movie Witchboard on DVD. It is a ghost/possession movie from 1986 starring, Tawny Kitaen. While the film is decent, though not as good as I had remembered, there was a very interesting element to this DVD; it came with a mini Witch Board insert-sleeve. The glossy cardboard sleeve has the traditional Ouija Board markings and design. Perforated edges can be removed, to make it dimensionally proportioned. One end contains a pop-out planchette to use with the board.

On the opposite side of this Ouija Board is the traditional film info; scene listings, credits, running time, etc. I have no intention of using this novelty. I will not pop-out the planchette or break-off its ends for aesthetic reasons. It is promotional items like this, which become collectible.

 

There is another reason why I do not pop-out that planchette, lay it upon the board and ask questions of the mystical world beyond. I do not need the movie Witchboard, Paranormal Activity, or The Exorcist to tell me of the potential dangers. I had learned a long time ago that these boards, although some are even manufactured by Hasbro, are not ‘games’ at all. I’ve had experiences with Ouija Boards, myself.

Sure, some of the things that have occurred could be rationalized as overactive imagination or subconscious knowledge coming to the surface of conscious thought. However, there are always a few things that leave a big fat question-mark, long after the Ouija Board is gone. Of those reading this, half of you are scoffing and half of you know exactly what I am talking about. Many people have had experiences with these ‘games’ and none of the experiences have a happy finale. In the end, it is always, “I have to get rid of this damn thing!”

 

A recurring aspect of Ouija Board phenomenon is the fact that, a board, once attached to a person that uses it, is not so easy to get rid of. It usually takes several attempts to dispose of the game. Somehow, the board always seems to fall out of the garbage pail, and not taken away by the garbage men. It is then returned to the house by another family member or neighbor, who doesn’t even know your original intention was to get rid of the accursed board to begin with. So, it winds up back in your home at the oddest time, sitting there on the kitchen table or bedroom desk, as your jaw goes slack and eyes go wide with terror.

At a later date I will relay a couple of past experiences.

For now, I would like you to indulge me with an experiment. Make sure the room is quiet. Shut off any music and the TV in the background. Make sure you do this at a time when no one will disturb you. Now, look at the computer keyboard you type on. It resembles a Witch board, doesn’t it? The only things missing are Yes/No and Goodbye. What I want you to do is open up a simple word-processing program. ‘Word’ is too complicated. Open up notepad. Click on the white page and set your cursor so it is ready to type. Do not type anything. Looking at the keyboard, place your fingers on the plastic area directly under the keys of the keyboard. Try to get all five fingers touching the plastic. Now, I want you to clear your mind of all thoughts. All worries, appointments, wants and needs, aspirations – clear them all out. Gone. Take a few deep breaths. Relax. Wait a few more moments in meditation.

Now, ask the all important question, “Is anybody out there?”

For the third night in a row, without any clicks of the keys, the word ‘hello’ has appeared on my screen.

Side note: I would suggest shutting down your computer at night, before bed. Another note, the word count in this blog came to 666 words,  strange.
Sleep well, my friends.