The Marvel universe recently got a whole lot darker when they announced that Scott Derrickson would be directing the upcoming Doctor Strange film, but before he takes a crack at that blockbuster, he’ll be looking to scare viewers senseless once again with one of the summer’s most talked about horror films — Deliver Us From Evil. Based on real-life NYPD sergeant Ralph Sarchie’s personal accounts, Derrickson brings to life a true story about possessions, terrors, and evil forces that unfolded in the Bronx in New York City. From the footage we’ve seen, all signs point to a spookily satanic “true story” that shows a completely hidden side of the Big Apple, but ever since Derrickson was named director, we knew Deliver Us From Evil was in good hands.
Satan, exorcisms, death, hauntings — all these genre tools are old hat for Derrickson. Hellraiser: Inferno marked the director’s first feature film, but it was The Exorcism Of Emily Rose that started attracting eyes around the horror community. Highly regarded as one of the better exorcism films during its release, a classification it still holds today, his next straight horror film was met with even more rave reviews. Sinister showed maturity and progression as Derrickson gained more experience and was named the fifth best horror film of 2012 by yours truly. Based on production alone, Derrickson showed a gigantic leap in execution between The Exorcism Of Emily Rose and Sinister, possibly picking up a few notes during production on his remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still. Horror fans were responding to Derrickson’s style of horror, and were doing so emphatically. If for no other reason, people are excited about Deliver Us From Evil simply because they’re dying to see how Derrickson advances yet again.
In order to understand the hype, we truly have to understand all the positive responses to both The Exorcism Of Emily Rose and Sinister. First and foremost, both of Derrickson’s previous paranormal features display engrossing performances, be it from a girl possessed by the devil or a struggling writer haunted by the deaths of previous homeowners. One character pure evil, the other nothing but a mortal man, actress Jennifer Carpenter and actor Ethan Hawke deserve praise for their respective roles — but Derrickson’s command of his talent is obvious throughout both The Exorcism Of Emily Rose and Sinister.
Acting is where it starts, because the characters must be fearful if we ourselves are to experience true, unflinching horror. Jennifer Carpenter’s unnerving body-contorting battle with Lucifer never loses grip of Emily’s doomed fate, embracing fear and horror as Ashley Bell did for Daniel Stamm’s The Last Exorcism, but it’s Derrickson’s job to guide Carpenter towards a realistic portrayal of demonic possession. I’ve seen my fair share of exorcism movies, and so much hinges on the victim’s demonic state, but the director’s keen eye for detail characterizes a heartbreaking scenario as we helplessly watch a young girl be consumed by Hell’s ruler.