The films starts off in Iraq (not too dissimilar to The Exorcist) as it follows three soldiers who explore an underground tunnel and encounter something not of this world. The action zooms six months into the future where NYPD detective Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is responding to a 911 distress call concerning a domestic assault. The perpetrator just happens to be one of the soldiers from the prologue, who is swiftly arrested. Following this Satchie responds to the 911 call from a zoo who report that a women threw her two year child into the lion enclosure, the women in question shows signs of strange behaviour. Ralph Sarchie leads the investigation, teaming up Edgar Ramírez's Mendoza, and discovers that the three soldiers brought back something evil and demonic.
Scott Derrickson has dived deep into the Dark Arts of demonic possession before in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (a underrated and personal favourite film of mine) and has shown that he has a natural flair when it comes to directing exorcism sequences or showcasing signs of demonic possession. He has shown to be a competent director as both Sinister and Exorcism of Emily Rose are decent horror films. In Deliver us from Evil Derrickson shows signs of having an ability to build a dark atmosphere with murky and effective visuals (the film is visually similar to David Fincher's Se7en) but his over reliance on jump scares and loud sound cues in his latest project is greatly annoying. For minor things, the film overplays such cheap tactics and when I say that the film overuses jump scares I mean the film uses them all the time and when I say the film uses them all the time I literally mean all the time. It got to the extent it was astonishingly lazy filmmaking.
The over reliance on jump scares and loud sound cues aside, Derrickson does a good jump at maintaining an even pace and sustaining a decent level of tension and creating a foreboding atmosphere, however other factors work against his good effort in the directing chair. The screenplay itself is devoid of any real imagination as it merely travels through the various tropes and clichés of the possession sub genre (protagonist's family under threat for example). That said the screenplay does have an interesting idea where it uses possession as a metaphor for PTSD as the three US soldiers bring back the evil following their deployment to Iraq, but it would have been nice to see such an idea developed further. Whilst the performances are fine the film is further hindered by the paper thin characters, notably the joke cracking partner, Butler (Joel McHale), and Jen Sarchie (Olivia Munn) whose sole purpose is to nag her workaholic husband about how he is married to the job.
Deliver us from Evil is by no stretch of imagination completely unwatchable, but it is an entirely forgettable entry into the possession sub genre. If you want to check out Derrickson's best work in the genre stick with The Exorcism of Emily Rose instead.