Buckle up for the ride that is "Deliver Us From Evil," a highly intense and effective mash-up of police procedural and horror show. Boosting the story's thrill quotient is its air of authenticity: The film was inspired by actual paranormal cases described by former New York Police officer Ralph Sarchie in a 2001 book he co-wrote with Lisa Collier Cool.
Director Scott Derrickson, who adapted the script with frequent collaborator Paul Harris Boardman ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose," "Devil's Knot," "Urban Legends: Final Cut"), has infused this winding tale with propulsive urgency and snowballing tension, providing plenty of jumps, nightmarish imagery (cat lovers, you are warned!) and things that literally go bump in the night.
In lesser hands, the movie might have seemed silly or clichéd — and for some it still may — between its believe-it-or-not devil-doings and patchwork of dueling-genre tropes. But Derrickson ("Sinister," "Emily Rose"), with superb assists from lead actor Eric Bana (as solid as they come), cinematographer Scott Kevan and three-time Oscar-winning sound designer Paul N.J. Ottosson, has crafted an absorbing, at times riveting spookfest.
Bana, sporting a credible New Yawk accent and great-fitting T-shirts, plays Sarchie, a tough if haunted South Bronx-area cop with a self-described "heavy hand." Along with his adrenaline-junkie partner (a buff and tatted Joel McHale), Sarchie begins investigating a string of bizarre events, which include unhinged mother Jane (Olivia Horton) chucking her child into the lion's den at the Bronx Zoo, and the gruesome death of a mysterious house painter.
Father Joe Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez), an offbeat Jesuit priest with a dark past and ties to the feral Jane, tries to convince a skeptical Sarchie that demonic possession is fueling these mounting occurrences. Policeman and padre join up to battle what Mendoza deems "primary evil": a pure, destructive force of infinite power.
Ancient Latin writing and strange symbols, questions of faith, a chilling and inventive use of music by the Doors and, most frightening, a veteran (Sean Harris) of the Iraq war who's morphed into an inhuman portal for said primary evil, all factor in. Sarchie's pregnant wife (Olivia Munn) and 6-year-old daughter (Lulu Wilson) also become enmeshed in the horror.
It all concludes with a big, bloody, utterly mesmerizing exorcism sequence that's worth the price of admission. For what it sets out to do, "Evil" delivers.
'Deliver Us From Evil'
MPAA rating: R for bloody violence, grisly images, terror and language
Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes