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Peter T Chattaway

Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

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Scott Derrickson wrote:
: Even I don't know how you got April 2013 - where did you get April?

 

Wasn't that on the zoo's security camera footage, or some such thing? I thought I spotted it there. We'll have to ask Darrel Manson or one of the other "date movie" spotters to keep an eye open for that if they see the film after reading this.

 

: Regardless, your statement about the end title cards telling us what "the characters have been doing in the years since the story ended" is incorrect.  Nothing in the title card says or implies "years".

 

True, though I was referring to your movie and Heaven Is for Real simultaneously, and in your movie's case, the book it's based on -- the source of the "origin" story, as it were -- does take place years ago. Though I see that the real-life Sarchie apparently retired in 2004, just a few years after the book came out. (The passage of time is more obvious in the case of the movie version of Heaven Is for Real, because the title cards -- and the photos accompanying them -- reveal just how much older Colton Burpo is nowadays.)

 

Incidentally, is Mendoza a real person, or a composite, or a psuedonym, or...? The name doesn't turn up at all when I search for it in the book at Amazon, and there's only one result for "Jesuit" (on page 57, though Amazon won't let me see the whole page). In contrast, a search for "Warren" (as in Ed and Lorraine) turns up 30 different pages.

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SPOLIER:

But Sarchie never becomes a demon-hunter at all in the film.  He is only chasing a perp and denying his spiritual gifts.  When he realizes that his brute force against Santino is useless, he hands him off to Santino.  He never makes a profession of faith either - only a renouncing of evil at the end. That was intentional.

 

But surely at some point Sarchie stops denying his spiritual gifts and uses them for good? Of course I noticed you never actually showed that, but I thought it was implied. Not to say there might not be more drama and character development (perhaps in a hypothetical sequel?) before he becomes Sarchie the demon hunter, but I assume that's his trajectory.

 

If he never becomes a demon hunter (or investigator of the demonic, or "demonologist" as the real-life Sarchie calls himself), you'd have essentially jettisoned the central theme of Beware the Night. That would be … odd, it seems to me.  

 

Am I right in remembering the renouncing of Satan as a baptism scene? If so, you might not show Sarchie making a profession of faith, but assuming Fr. Mendoza follows the baptismal liturgy, "Do you reject Satan?" will be shortly followed by "Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, [etc.]?" The prescribed answer is "I do." 

Come to think of it, I thought I read you describing the film as an origin story, somewhere, after I saw it. Am I making that up? 

 

The baptism scene is certainly a kind of confession of faith, no doubt.  I've never thought of the movie as an origin story but it's definitely about Sarchie's arc from skeptic to believer - but my earlier point is that he's not a full believer until the very end of the movie at best.  During the exorcism, he has enough faith in Mendoza's beliefs to hand control over to him and participate - and after what he sees there, he's certainly going to be a kind of believer.  But I never thought of the movie as being about the origin of a demon hunter.

Scott Derrickson wrote:

: Even I don't know how you got April 2013 - where did you get April?

 

Wasn't that on the zoo's security camera footage, or some such thing? I thought I spotted it there. We'll have to ask Darrel Manson or one of the other "date movie" spotters to keep an eye open for that if they see the film after reading this.

 

: Regardless, your statement about the end title cards telling us what "the characters have been doing in the years since the story ended" is incorrect.  Nothing in the title card says or implies "years".

 

True, though I was referring to your movie and Heaven Is for Real simultaneously, and in your movie's case, the book it's based on -- the source of the "origin" story, as it were -- does take place years ago. Though I see that the real-life Sarchie apparently retired in 2004, just a few years after the book came out. (The passage of time is more obvious in the case of the movie version of Heaven Is for Real, because the title cards -- and the photos accompanying them -- reveal just how much older Colton Burpo is nowadays.)

 

Incidentally, is Mendoza a real person, or a composite, or a psuedonym, or...? The name doesn't turn up at all when I search for it in the book at Amazon, and there's only one result for "Jesuit" (on page 57, though Amazon won't let me see the whole page). In contrast, a search for "Warren" (as in Ed and Lorraine) turns up 30 different pages.

The April date may have been on the zoo camera footage - I don't recall. 

 

Sarchie was mentored by two priest - Bishop McKenna (an exorcist) in NYC and Father Malachi Martin (who wrote Hostage to the Devil, the scariest book I've ever read). His Jesuit background and Latin American ethnicity was added, along with some aspects of his backstory - but some of that backstory was drawn from Father Martin.  The whole movie is a very heavy truth/fiction mashup.  

 

The real Ralph Sarchie worked cases with the Warrens by the way.  Small circle of folks who do this I guess.

 

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I saw this over the weekend.  Thank you, Scott.  You are building quite an impressive body of work, and I think this film only increases the importance of your growing collection of films.

 

It's funny, but there were times watching Deliver Us from Evil when the rationalist part of me was objecting to the sheer ridiculousness of it all.  I told myself that this is just the sort of thing that a filmmaker does to scare the audience.  It's all already been determined by the old conventions of the genre.  But then the rationalist part of me was also forced to remember that this story is real, that the worst of it has been documented by the NYPD, and that, according to what I've read, the film doesn't even include everything that the NYPD has videos and evidence of.  You have made a film that seriously confronts the audience with a part of the world that cannot be easily dismissed.

 

The ending feels long, heavy, drawn out and oppressive.  It's the kind of thing the cynical part of me was tempted to laugh away, just to try and remove the oppresiveness.  But I couldn't, because I also believe this is something that really happens and it cannot be fully explained by mental illness.  (Mendoza even admits to Sarchie that many times, even most of the time, it might be explained by illness or human error.  But it can't be explained like that in every instance.)

 

One of my favorite scenes in the film is the conversation between Sarchie and Mendoza on the problem of evil.  To one point of view as explained by Sarchie, the existence of evil is a reason for not believing.  How could a good God allow this?  But then Mendoza answers him, and the answer he gives isn't just the simplistic evangelical answer about free will (a legitimate answer, but it is too often reduced to unbelievable simplicity).  Instead, I understood Mendoza to be pointing to the very nature of good and evil itself.  It seems to me that this film adds greatly to your body of work in offering this answer (at another angle and with yet another documented story).  If evil cannot exist without good, then the existence of evil is itself a reason to believe.  It's an answer that, ultimately, rejects Gnostic dualism (which taught that good needs evil, that both good and evil are equals, and that they balance each other out).  This is an insight that many films with conventional villains, and perhaps even most horror films, do not seem interested in exploring.

 

If spiritual evil needs spiritual good to exist, if all evil is only good twisted, then the nature of evil tells us something more than many people admit.  In the confession scene, Sarchie seems to illustrate this idea, even if perhaps unwittingly.

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J.A.A.  Purves said:

 

:If spiritual evil needs spiritual good to exist, if all evil is only good twisted, then the nature of evil tells us something more than many people admit. 

 

 

This is good stuff.  I've long pondered over and prayed about the problem of evil and I agree that it doesn't disprove the existence of God as some would say.  I'm planning on seeing the film tomorrow and if it delves into the concept you've mentioned then I'm even more excited to see it.

 

 

I think there's another aspect of evil that is connected to this, being that for the repentant evil becomes a path to mercy and grace and having a deeper grasp of these concepts, whereby we learn a deeper understanding of God's love.

 

So I'd think that good gets twisted to evil but then justice, mercy, and grace untwist it back to good whereby we learn a greater understanding of love.

 

 

In other words.... maybe this whole mess we are in hasn't fooled God and is in fact part of a bigger and deeper understanding and plan.

Edited by Attica

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Roger Ebert was an agnostic with zero antagonism toward spiritual/religious content in movies. This current Chicago SunTimes reviewer is the opposite extreme. I don't mind a bad review, but this feels more like a hit piece/snarky outing on my faith than a review. Am I being too sensitive?

http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/movies/28406705-421/deliver-us-from-evil-devil-must-have-made-director-concoct-these-routine-frights.html#.U7sLz7HrzYQ

Edited by Scott Derrickson

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Scott, I was one of the first people to comment on that review.  He/she was more attuned to a political viewpoint being pushed, than the actual story at hand.  I am very familiar with New York City, having grown up there, and being good friends with the Franciscan Friars who live and work in inner city Bronx.  I know of the statistics of fatherless homes in those areas, and that it is a plague in certain areas, and that I suspect you were reflecting a reality rather than promulgating the view she stated. 

 

But being that I haven't seen it yet (big fan of Sinister), I am hoping I was on target in this rebuttal.

 

BTW, I talked with a concession stand worker this past weekend (took the kids to see the Dragon movie), and she said that there was a temporal blackout (due to heavy electrical storms in our area), in the middle of the scariest parts of your film.  FYI.

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Am I being too sensitive?

 

Not at all. And it does feel like a hit piece.

Absolutely (on both counts).  The reviewer gives the most basic overview of the plot, then proceeds to not discuss the film or filmmaking at all, instead making several irrelevant ad hominems, which he fails to relate to the film any way other than to sneer at it.

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Through various sources I was able to locate the first draft of the Sun-Times review:

  • I saw part of this movie about a cop teamed up with an exorcist priest.  And Iraq soldiers.  I think it had some lions, too.
  • Did you know there's seven petitions in the Lord's Prayer?
  • This director went to a Christian College.  Doesn't he suck?
  • Oh crap i missed my deadline--I guess I'll send this in as is after I remove the bullet points.

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Am I being too sensitive?

 

 

Not at all. And it does feel like a hit piece. 

 

 

It seems to me to be barely coherent.  More like a 12 year olds rant than a review.

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I just took a long lunch and watched this with a buddy. Wow.That was intense! It was really good, though. I don't know if Eric Bana's character has any similarities to the real-life cop, but he was a great choice for this role.

 

Also, this film had several "typical horror movie scenes" that I would have totally laughed off in a lesser movie.  I'm especially thinking of the scene early in the film when the cops show up at the Bronx Zoo in the middle of the night and all the lights are off. Instead of slapping my forehead and saying "Oh brother," I was gripping my armrests. Same with any scene involving a descent into a dark basement. These were done really well!

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Crowd source question: The family sleeping in their living room with the evil emanating from the basement: Hispanic or Italian?

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Crowd source question: The family sleeping in their living room with the evil emanating from the basement: Hispanic or Italian?

 

Italian.  in real life and in the movie.  I saw the video recordings that the real Ralph Sarchie made with the family members that the scene was based on - those people weren't lying, weren't trying to get attention, and were absolutely terrified of their own house.  Chilling to watch.

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Great review.  But I've got to say.  I loved the tangent...   :)

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Great review.  But I've got to say.  I loved the tangent...   smile.png

 

I wrote that paragraph, looked at it, thought "Why in the world am I putting that in this review?" Almost deleted it entirely. But it's an observation that a professor made for me at Seattle Pacific 21 years ago. It's stayed with me. I figure if it made that big an impression on me, I should leave it there just in case somebody else might find it intriguing. So I bumped it down to a footnote. Now I'm glad I did.

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Great review.  But I've got to say.  I loved the tangent...   smile.png

 

I wrote that paragraph, looked at it, thought "Why in the world am I putting that in this review?" Almost deleted it entirely. But it's an observation that a professor made for me at Seattle Pacific 21 years ago. It's stayed with me. I figure if it made that big an impression on me, I should leave it there just in case somebody else might find it intriguing. So I bumped it down to a footnote. Now I'm glad I did.

 

 

 

That's not a bad thing to have stick with you.   wink.png      About a year and a half ago I read a couple of theological books that were saying pretty much the same thing.  Maybe even exactly the same, I can't remember.

Edited by Attica

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Caught up with this last night.  I'm always going to be late in watching horror films, coz I only watch them one month a year.  So I make them count.

Scott, if you're reading this, I want you to know that I'm rooting for you to do your own Music of the Heart

That's because the only parts of the film that came alive for me were the conversations between Ramirez and Bana.  All the "hip priest" dialogue just popped out for me.  I think they serve as a template for lesser Christian filmmakers as to how to handle faith in the real R-rated world.  The key line where Bana says that the priest was not like any priest he's ever seen, where the compliment is returned that Bana is exactly like every detective he's ever seen.  Folks who panned the film who say the film offered nothing new were wrong; I don't recall ever seeing a character like Fr. Mendoza.  Mega-kudos to Ramirez for bringing him to life.

The scary stuff?  Perhaps I"m world weary, but it didn't work for me. The masterful sound and set design was intricately laid out; but it was overkill.  Jump scares?  I didn't jump.  It's really hard to pull these off, and you pulled them off fantastically in *Sinister*.  Perhaps the scope of this project was too broad.

I also am slightly disheartened by finding that you folks wrote your own story based on the real-life character of Ralph Sarchie, and not used the stories from his book.  I felt a little bait-and-switch there.  Maybe the stories were too much like watching paint drying, or maybe you couldn't find a narrative to link them together (please tell me there's a Fr. Mendoza!).  I felt the detour in Iraq had a little bit too much Exorcist II the Heretic going for it, and considering the notoriety of that film, I'm not sure if it was a good approach.  And I thought the children's toys sequence was weaksauce.  (The final sequence was fine).

But those conversations between the two?  Fantastic.  I wish there was a whole movie of just conversations between doubters and believers, in a manner that is not proselytic and yet enlightening.

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