Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

DUFE0Anyone who knows me, personally or through my guest reviews here, will be aware of my long-term affection for KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER, the short-lived but highly influential horror series (if you know nothing about it, go reread my retrospective on it here). It, and the TV movies which inspired the series, successfully combined the gritty urban film nourish police procedural with horror, and its older, professional protagonists were a fresh and welcome change from the usual idiot teens and twenty-somethings that usually populate horror movies.

This was a vibe I definitely picked up while I was watching DELIVER US FROM EVIL, a new film written and directed by Scott Derrickson (SINISTER). The movie is based on a 2001 non-fiction book, Beware the Night, written by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool. Sarchie was a veteran NYPD cop who apparently witnessed numerous cases of demonic possession while on duty, later retiring and becoming a full-time demonologist, and his book details these.

Men's Room on the left, Ladies' Room on the right. Demons... piss on the floor as usual...
Men’s Room on the left, Ladies’ Room on the right. Demons… piss on the floor as usual…

Scott Derrickson and co-writer Paul Harris Boardman chose not to adapt any of the accounts in the books, instead re-imagining the “origin story” of Sarchie in a completely original plot. The critics gave it mixed and negative reviews, but were they deserved?

DELIVER US FROM EVIL opens in Iraq, with a group of soldiers on some night mission, moving through the desert and approaching a cave, one where the spiders and snakes are fleeing from – never a good sign when the spiders and snakes leave the neighbourhood. They enter, their night vision goggles and cameras recording some writing on a wall, before all Hell breaks loose (sorry, couldn’t resist)…

"No, that was Mark Ruffalo! I was the first Hulk! NO, I'M NOT BILL BIXBY!"
“No, that was Mark Ruffalo! I was the *first* Hulk! NO, I’M NOT BILL BIXBY!”

We then cut to New York city, with cops Sarchie (Eric Bana, HULK) and snarky, wisecracking partner and future corpse (oh come on, you know how cop partners die in movies!) Butler (Joel McHale, from TV’s COMMUNITY) investigating a number of seemingly unrelated cases: wife beaters, suicides by paint thinner (yuck), and an apparently drugged-up woman (Colombian actress Valentina Rendón) who threw her kid into the lion pit of a zoo. But Sarchie has a “radar” about such things. You can almost call it a… Sixth Sense. Of course, you don’t need a Sixth Sense to guess that it might all have something to do with the fucked-up looking guy Sarchie sees walking in and out of the lion pit, unnoticed and unchallenged by the pack.

Someone's gonna be on the next Vatican's calendar for 2015...
Someone’s gonna be on the next Vatican’s calendar for 2015…

Anyway, Sarchie comes in contact with Mendoza, an impossibly handsome Jesuit priest played by Édgar Ramírez (ZERO DARK THIRTY). Seriously, the guy is way too handsome and buff to be leaving his Blessed Weapon in his pants. Look, I’m straight – well, mostly straight – but this guy is WOW! Sign me up for some of that Hot Priest Action!

Ahem. Anyway, he is seemingly in charge of the now-institutionalised woman who threw her kid into the lion pit, and asks to see security footage from the zoo. Pressed for a reason why, Mendoza admits that he believes the woman is possessed, something Archie scoffs at.

And yet, he can’t deny that the weird cases he has been encountering are all connected to the members of that three-man unit who changed after seeing the inscriptions on that cave in Iraq and returning home to the Big Apple. And their leader, Santino (Sean Harris, PROMETHEUS and TV’s THE BORGIAS) is still out there, and targeting Sarchie’s wife and child…

Spot the Possessed One...
Spot the Possessed One…

As stated before, the critics were not kind, calling DELIVER US FROM EVIL, among other things, bland and unoriginal. And they have a point, at least about the unoriginality. Very little of this hasn’t been taken from other movies, from all genres: the hard-nosed, cynical ex-Catholic cop with a dark secret that the demons might use against him, the priest who asks questions like, “Do you believe in True Evil?”, the bland wife (Olivia Munn) and child there simply to be bait, the smart-ass partner who will get killed even if he’s not two days from retirement. Even the title, changed at the last minute from the original BEWARE THE NIGHT, smacks of Generic…

She's just looking for a lost contact... AND YOUR SOUL! (Okay, maybe just the contact)
She’s just looking for a lost contact… AND YOUR SOUL! (Okay, maybe just the contact)

And yet, I was still impressed by the movie. Maybe it was because I was watching it at night, with my wife and daughter and so unable to fast forward or turn it off. Maybe it was because of the actors, who gave it their all and gave it well.

And maybe it was Derrickson’s talent for creating an atmosphere of escalating tension and terror, something he demonstrated in the only other horror movie of his I’ve seen, SINISTER (which I reviewed here). He’s a talented director, able to generate atmosphere even with ordinary scenes, as well as the extraordinary ones, such as the aforementioned zoo, and the shots with the possessed, incarcerated woman (anyone who Googles Valentina Rendón and sees the gorgeous smiling actress will not recognise the feral beast you see here). The movie culminates in the obligatory exorcism scene, but despite having seen so many of these, I was impressed by this, too; set in a police interrogation room, it had a potency and vibrancy that raised it up (and did avoid some of the hoarier clichés associated with such scenes).

The writing's on the wall (Okay, okay, I'm going...)
The writing’s on the wall (Okay, okay, I’m going…)

Derrickson is next directing Marvel Comics’ DOCTOR STRANGE (2016) with Benedict Cumberbatch, and anyone who knows the character’s origins could see DELIVER US FROM EVIL as a sort of first draft of what movie might turn out like (worldly hero is introduced to the otherworldly dangers around us). Which is good, because judging from this movie, Derrickson can deliver the kind of scares and atmosphere a movie about the Master of the Mystic Arts requires.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL is available on DVD and VOD, and the trailer is below.

Deggsy’s Summary:

Director: Scott Derrickson (also co-wrote)

Plot: 4 out of 5 stars

Gore: 7 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Deggsy. Got the Devil in him…

 

Sinister Director Scott Derrickson Announces Next Project

postmortal posterScott Derrickson has definitely made a good name for himself in the genre.  Sure he directed HELLRAISER: INFERNO (yikes) and the remake of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (double yikes), but he also directed THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE and last years hit creeper, SINISTER (Deggsy’s review).  Derrickson is currently filming BEWARE THE NIGHT, about a New York City cop investigating a series of heinous crimes involving the occult and possible demonic possession, and has announced a future project.

The announcement comes from author Drew Magary, who wrote the novel THE POSTMORTAL, which is also known as THE END SPECIALIST in the U.K.  According to Magary, Derrickson scored the film rights to his THE POSTMORTAL.  The book is described as a gripping, compulsive thriller set in a future where the cure for aging has been discovered with devastating consequences.  Sounds pretty interesting and it’s good to see Derrickson getting away from demons and possession!!  Dig on the book synopsis:

“You got me. I don’t want to die. I’m terrified of death. I fear there’s nothing beyond it and that this existence is the only one I’ll ever possess. That’s why I’m here.” (An excerpt from the digital journal of John Farrell, cure age 29, 2019.)

Humanity has witnessed its greatest scientific breakthrough yet: the cure for aging. Three injections and you’re immortal — not bulletproof or disease-proof, but you’ll never have to fear death by old age. For John Farrell, documenting the cataclysmic shifts to life after the cure becomes an obsession. Cure parties, cycle marriages, immortal livestock: the world is reveling in the miracles of eternal youth. But immortality has a sinister side, and when a pro-death terrorist explosion kills his newly-cured best friend, John soon realizes that even in a world without natural death, there is always something to fear. Now, John must make a new choice: run and hide forever, or stay and fight those who try to make immortal life a living hell. The e-book edition contains exclusive extra content – for those who want to find out even more consequences of the cure for aging.

Sounds like a solid project!!  What do you think?

Stay Bloody!!!

Sequel to Sinister is in the Pipeline … Shocker!!

sinister-movie-poster__130301195419When a little film grosses more than $87 million worldwide off of a $3 million budget, you can bet your ass that a sequel won’t be far behind.  The PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise is still cranking them out (for better or worse) and now it looks like SINISTER will be the new sequel on the block.  Deadline.com has reported that Jason Blum‘s Blumhouse Productions is moving forward on its third micro-budget franchise with SINISTER 2.

The move to build the Sinister franchise follows in the footsteps of Blumhouse’s successes with theParanormal Activity and Insidious series of ultra-low-budget genre hits.

Deadline.com further reports that:

[A]ll of the major behind-the-scenes players are back for Sinister 2, including creators Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. They wrote the original, which Derrickson also directed. Thinking is that they’ll write the sequel, and I hear director conversations are in the works. Blum will produce as will Derrickson. (Blumhouse and Derrickson are also working on a screen adaptation of Stephen King novella The Breathing Method.)

The cast and plot for the sequel are so far being kept under tight wraps.  More on this one as it comes.

Stay Bloody!!!

Sinister (2012)

It seems almost painfully obvious, but a scary film should be… scary. We watch plenty of films which are labelled scary, but in fact evoke other emotions, usually excitement and disgust (and if it’s a movie from the Asylum, derision). We have monster movies, torture porn, slashers, possession films, horror-comedies… but very few of these actually fill us with fear and dread. To that we must go to the subgenre of ghost movies. Not to say that a ghost movie is automatically scary – there’s plenty of duds out there.

Some of the more successful ones, at least financially, have been in the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series. Especially financially, given that the franchise’s movies have been incredibly low-budget, by avoiding tons of CGI in favour of a more subtle approach (that this also usually results in a tween-friendly rating doesn’t hurt the box office). In a way it harkens back to the horror movies of old, where the censorship standards of the day meant they had to focus on atmosphere, suggestion, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks (and people today who didn’t grow up with those films and criticise them for their lack of actual scary content should consider how much they react to movies like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, which has very little more than strings pulling down sheets and odd flashes into the camera). Done well, it works. But will it work with Scott Derrickson’s SINISTER?

Ethan Hawke in SINISTER

The movie opens with old film footage of a family of four standing beneath a huge tree with hoods on their heads and nooses around their necks. On the other side of the tree, someone just off-camera is sawing through another branch. When this other branch finally falls, it triggers a counterweight which lifts the four up, slowly strangling them.

Fortunately, this is not the start of another Found Footage movie, as we cut to Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13), a writer of true crime books who has moved his family to a new home in a small town. The local Sheriff (Fred Dalton Thompson, from TV’s LAW AND ORDER) shoos away some deputies who had shown up to get Ellison’s autograph, finding little to admire about the man’s work, or about his reason to coming to their town, though it’s not spoken aloud. It’s certainly not spoken to his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance, ANIMAL) or their children, artistic Ashley (Clare Foley, WIN-WIN) and somnambulistic Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario, ARE WE THERE YET?), who try to fit in while Ellison begins his research.

Shhhh… (yeah; this isn’t too creepy!!)

Gradually we learn that Ellison’s latest book involves the four murders of the previous occupants of the house, killed just as we saw at the beginning of the film. But there was a fifth member, Stephanie (Victoria Leigh, UNFORGETTABLE), a young girl who went missing, presumed dead. Ellison finds in the attic a box of old Super 8 films, with labels like SLEEPY TIME ’88 and BBQ ’78. Out of idle curiosity, he sets up a projector in his study and watches some, expecting them to be boring home movies.

They’re not.

To his horror, Ellison sees images of different families being tied up and drowned in a pool, put inside a car and set on fire, mutilated with a powered lawn mower – and hung from a tree. And by chance, Ellison spots a ghostly image in each of the films, along with a strange painted symbol.

Don’t Let Mr Boogie babysit your kids. Really…

Working with a local deputy (James Ransome, PROM NIGHT), but without revealing the existence of the films, Ellison learns that the murders depicted went back to the 1960s, all families brutally murdered, and all missing one young member of the families. And with the help of a convenient local professor (Vincent D’Onofrio, MEN IN BLACK) Ellison learns the symbol represents a pagan deity called Bughuul, a force that slaughters families and takes one survivor away to join him in his otherworldly realm. And children’s drawings found with the film detail a “Mr Boogie” taking the children…

It all sounds like prime material for Ellison’s next book, something the man needs after his last two books tanked following his initial success. But as he continues his search for the truth, he begins to see and hear things he shouldn’t have to face…

Pilates by Poltergeist!!

SINISTER is one superior, well-made film. There are elements which are familiar if not predictable to horror movie buffs, but these are easily outweighed by an intelligent script (the dialogue flows naturally, people act as you’d expect, and the film doesn’t feel the need to beat us over the head with exposition) and decent acting (Hawke stands out, but the rest of the cast is able and memorable). There’s a good, steady pace to the mystery, as Ellison uses all the tools at his disposal to study the footage, map facts and theories, ask questions of the sources available – in short, acting like a man who had written true crime books.

His inner conflict is also very believable; Ellison had a bestseller once, but that was years before, and his subsequent works were less well-received. He had given up a more stable job writing text books to come to this house for one last chance at grabbing his early glory, and despite the growing horror he uncovers, he is reluctant to let it go.

Mr Boogie is coming for you!

The concept behind the supernatural force is also interesting. It’s not simply a question of Bughuul/Mr Boogie haunting the house, it goes far deeper than that (I’m struggling not to reveal too much and spoil things).

But what about the scares? Anyone looking for gore will be disappointed. Derrickson has opted for creepiness, atmosphere, a growing sense of dread and unease, punctuated with scares, some of which genuinely got to me on at least one occasion, and didn’t feel like cheats or cheap frights (its closest equivalent for me was INSIDIOUS, another movie made on a low budget but offering fresh and effective frights). In interviews, co-writer C. Robert Cargill has stated in interviews “I don’t like false scares. I think the experience of getting an audience a little bit tense and shocking them with a jump scare, and then moving on it can be cheap and easy. The harder thing is to get them unnerved and disturbed in a growing way. That starts off easy and increases all the way through the picture.”

He should have stuck to YouTubing kittens in hats…

Director Derrickson agreed with this philosophy: “At the end of the day, a ‘jump scare’ scares the audience for the moment. Slow burn horror ideas scare people forever… that’s part of what we wanted to do here. We wanted to make something that would scare people in the long term, not just in the moment.”

I think his attempt is successful. SINISTER is well worth a viewing. Its trailer is here (although maybe you shouldn’t watch it; in the manner of so many, it seems eager to give away so much of the plot and best scares).

Deggsy’s Summary:

Director: Scott Derrickson (and co-writer)

Plot: 5 out of 5 stars

Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien

Grimmfest is Back & Better Than Ever for their 4th Year!!

Grimmfest is the UK’s leading horror film festival, always offering a blood-spattered smorgasbord of the best new and cult horror films, as well as a variety of special guest appearances.

And now, in its fourth year, Grimmfest is getting ready to open its bloody doors again!

The festival starts up proper at the Dancehouse Theatre in central Manchester from Thursday 4 October to Sunday 7 October, but will actually open with a preview night on Wednesday 3 October. This will see Grimmfest, for the first time, extend to another city, the neighbouring town of Stockport, with the Stockport Super Plaza hosting what sounds like an impressive double bill:

SINISTER, the new haunted house thriller starring Ethan Hawke, which isn’t released nationwide until the following week. From the press release by Momentum Pictures: ‘A True Crime author, researching a new book, moves his family into a house in which several murders were committed. A box of Super 8 film reels discovered in the attic reveals that there is something a whole lot darker at work than he anticipated…’

And if that’s not enough to whet your appetites, there’s also AMERICAN MARY, the new film from Jen and Sylvia Soska, the talented twins whose previous work, DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, was met with well-deserved acclaim at the 2010 Grimmfest. From their press release:

‘Impoverished medical student Mary Mason gets pulled into the shadowy underworld of illegal body modification surgery after she performs a few questionable procedures for a local mobster. Here she finds the respect and creative fulfilment the conventional medical world had denied her, as well as the opportunity for gruesome revenge on her tormentors…’

If you’ve read Scott’s previous articles on the Soska Sisters, you’ll know they’re a force to be reckoned with, and if you’ve not seen DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, find it (read Scott’s review here)! There’s also the preview of a short film, DYSMORPHIA, the first of three short “body horror” films from Glasgow-based horror journalist Andy Stewart, whose love of horror led him to start the popular horror blogsite, AndyErupts.com, last year.

Thursday night brings us a truly gala Opening Night, with the preview of COMEDOWN, from the director of KIDULTHOOD, and is said to do for slasher movies what ATTACK THE BLOCK did for the alien invasion genre.

Michelle Ryan in COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES

Of even greater interest for me is the much-anticipated zom-com COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES. Essentially boiled down to SHAUN OF THE DEAD meets LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, this high-energy tale stars Michelle Ryan (from the ill-fated BIONIC WOMAN remake) and ex-Avenger Honor Blackman as a foul-mouthed, gun-toting pensioner. Both Ryan and Blackman will be making an appearance, along with the director for a Q & A session after the showing. There will also be a late-night showing of the fabulous SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE (see Scott’s review here).

Friday night offers an extra special event: a celebration of Clive Barker’s 60th birthday, with a showing of the Cabal (and longest) Cut of his cult classic NIGHTBREED, alongside a special Q+A with cast members and FX experts. There’s also a showing of Greg Olliver’s DEVOURED, a bleak psychological thriller capturing the 70s urban scuzz of films like TAXI DRIVER and DRILLER KILLER. There’s also a showing of the Irish monster movie GRABBERS (see my review here) and a repeat showing of SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE.

Ross Noble in STITCHES

Saturday is an all day and night affair, offering us a a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new, with WAKE UP AND DIE, ‘a bone-chilling study of sexual paranoia and ever-darker narrative possibilities’; the classic Hammer film THE DEVIL RIDES OUT; the marvellously-titled Argentine anthology CURSED BASTARDS; the gory and funny Spanish tribute to Paul Naschy and John Landis ATTACK OF THE WEREWOLVES; and the claustrophobic Australian monster movie CRAWLSPACE.

And Sunday night will close the festival with, among other gems, a reshowing of the classic BASKET CASE, BELOW ZERO with Edward furlong and Michael Berryman (my review is here), and STITCHES, a slasher comedy starring stand-up comedian Ross Noble as a clown who returns from the dead (and anyone who’s seen his easy-going routine onstage might be surprised by his performance here). He will be making an appearance following the showing.

You can buy tickets for the individual showings and nights, but a weekend pass for Grimmfest will set you back £60. But, as shown above, there’s plenty to get your fangs into, and the pass also grants you half price entry to the preview night (full price £8), and free entry to the opening gala, and opening and closing parties. There’s also some fantastic competitions every night of the Festival.

Simeon Halligan, director of the festival, has said, “We’ve got some great guests and some great premieres. This is undoubtedly our best line up yet!”

For tickets, scheduling, and more information on Grimmfest 2012, visit the official GRIMMFEST website.

Stay Bloody!!!

Check out the 1st TV Spot for Sinister!!

This is a promising looking film, people!!  SINISTER is written and directed by Scott Derrickson and stars  Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, and James Ransone and manages to do something that other films kinda forget about — BE SCARY!!  With it’s October 5, 2012 release date coming up fast I’m thinking we’ll be seeing more and more SINISTER-related commercials and TV spots, but for now you’ll have to live with this one (and it looks great).  But first, the plot crunch/press release:

Summit Entertainment’s Sinister (review here) is holding special sneak previews across the country two weeks before release, allowing fans to create their own hometown premieres at their local theaters.

See Sinister first! Be the first to see the year’s most terrifying film by creating your very own hometown premiere in your city through Tugg.com, which allows people to choose the films they want to see. For one week only, fans will have the unique opportunity to create their own hometown premiere event for Sinister ahead of its wide theatrical release on October 5th.

Join a screening that’s currently live OR request one in your hometown at SeeSinisterFirst.com. Note: additional screening availability is limited. Summit Entertainment will determine the additional requested screenings and cities.

Screenings that reach the attendance threshold will receive a limited edition collectible poster forSinister. And the filmmakers will be available for Q&As in select cities (TBA)!

Plot Crunch:
Sinister is a frightening new thriller from the producer of the Paranormal Activity films and the writer-director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Ethan Hawke plays a true crime novelist who discovers a box of mysterious, disturbing home movies that plunge his family into a nightmarish experience of supernatural horror.

Now check out the first TV spot:

That’s a pretty kick ass trailer. What do you think?

Stay Bloody!!!

New Artwork for Sinister Drops in the UK

The UK artwork for Scott Derrickson’s (THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE) upcoming flick, SINISTER, has dropped in the UK. SINISTER is written and directed by Derrickson and stars Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Juliet Rylance, Fred Dalton Thompson, and James Ransone. This one sounds pretty spooky, and I think Derrickson has proven that he can make a helluva creepy flick!! Check out the plot crunch:

Don’t buy a house where the previous family was hanged, drowned, incinerated, or otherwise murdered unless you have the strongest of constitutions. True crime writer Ellison Oswald (Hawke) has made a career out of exposing police mistakes, and now he’s investigating a shocking small-town death first-hand by moving into the house where it actually took place. But strange occurrences start happening, and Ellison becomes convinced the figure he sees lurking in some old home movies he discovers is the ancient occult “eater of children” demon. The scares are not just intense but unyielding in this compelling horror yarn from The Exorcism of Emily Rose director Scott Derrickson. Impressive in its restraint during quieter moments, and powerfully disturbing at its nastiest, Sinister is a very creepy, darkly entertaining terror tale. And Ethan Hawke shines as the agonized writer whose deteriorating state of his mind shatters everything he holds dear.

SINISTER will have it’s UK premiere on August 26, 2012 as part of this year’s Film4 FrightFest, and you can keep up with UK release developments on the SINISTER UK Facebook page. SINISTER will have it’s North American premier on October 5, 2012. Check out the trailer below:

Stay Bloody!!!