The beginning of Deliver Us from Evil confirms that old saying: "war is hell."
This film embodies a specific sort of confirmation, though. Deliver Us from Evil is, in part, about restoring meaningfulness to our long-empty language about evil, Satan, devils, hell, and more. Derrickson's is a cinema of re-enchantment, one that captures with lively cinematic language the horrific attempts to silence existence unto nothingness or obedient defiance.
The Receding Devil
Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) doesn't believe in Satan. He believes what he sees, and as a cop in one of the most dangerous precincts in America, he's also seen too much human meanness and suffering to believe in God.
Early scenes that show Sarchie dealing with crimes as they are happening insinuate the hardening effect that fighting against this onslaught is having on him. He is on a path to succumb to the problem, the early negative effects of which are revealed in the drama of his family life with wife Jen (Olivia Munn) and daughter Christina (Lulu Wilson). A lapsed Catholic, Sarchie waves goodbye to his wife and daughter as they head to church on Sunday morning. Sarchie has seen it all, it seems, and it's all bleak.
But at the police department Sarchie begins responding to calls about strange happenings, and sees some suspicious activity that he's not seen before. As he becomes interested in investigating these calls about the paranormal, he gets involved with some poor souls who have an otherworldly gleam in their eyes.
Sarchie is flanked by his smart talking, knife wielding partner Butler (Joel McHale) and, eventually, an exorcising priest named Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez). The former provides some Bronx-worthy banter while assisting with the procedural nature of the investigation; the latter provides spiritual support, whether it's conversing with Sarchie about the problem of evil or leading the confrontation against the sinister mystery that the sergeant has uncovered. It's a mystery that you'd be right to guess involves three U.S. marines who are still "at war" after returning from Iraq.
"There's two types of evil in this world," Mendoza warns Sarchie, "secondary evil, the evil that men do, and primary evil, which is something else entirely."
Sarchie doesn't believe it: "I've seen some horrible things, nothing that can't be explained by human nature."
"Then you haven't seen true evil," the Castilian-Hungarian priest says stoically, unthreatened.