Best-selling nonfiction book on demonic possession adapted into film | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

SARCHIE brings in Santino (Sean Harris) with other officers.

When an all-too skeptic and pragmatic policeman finds himself investigating a mysterious case involving exorcism, he encounters horror that is far beyond his imagination that will ultimately test his faith.


This is the premise of the film “Deliver Us From Evil,” directed by Scott Derrickson, based on the best-selling nonfiction book “Beware the Night” co-written by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool, a collection of stories about different paranormal incidents which Sarchie had experienced throughout his career as a New York Police Department (NYPD) cop.


In the film, Sergeant Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) of the NYPD has seen his share of darkness on the mean streets of the South Bronx.  Assigned to the 46th Precinct in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the US, Sarchie has witnessed behavior on the outer edges of inhumanity, and it has begun to darken his soul, to the point of affecting his relationship with his wife Jen (Olivia Munn) and their young daughter Christina (Lulu Wilson).


But when Sarchie and his police partner Butler (Joel McHale), a sardonic ex-Army Ranger, are summoned to investigate a bizarre incident, the events that follow will test Sarchie’s beliefs.  He then meets Joe Mendoza (Ramirez), a renegade priest who tries to convince Sarchie that the increasingly horrifying occurrences are nothing less than an encounter with several cases of demonic possession.


Coherent narrative


One of the challenges that Derrickson and executive producer Chad Oman faced was how to mold the episodic nature of the book into a coherent narrative.


“The story was mainly focused on the spiritual-supernatural events; it wasn’t weighted toward the police procedural aspects of the story,” said Oman “Years later, when Scott [Derrickson] returned to the project as its writer and director, he added a pretty equal story focused on the police aspects of the story, then merged the two together.”


Although the film’s protagonist, Ralph Sarchie, is quite real, Derrickson invented the character’s counterpart, the unconventional priest, Joe Mendoza.


“Mendoza is an amalgam of two real people who were instrumental in Ralph Sarchie’s life in helping him recover his faith and take seriously what he was experiencing and investigating, and then ultimately train him to be an assistant in the rite of exorcism,” Derrickson said. “One of them was a bishop who actually performed the majority of the exorcisms that Ralph was part of, and the other was a Catholic priest who wrote books on the subject.  Rather than try to pick one of them, we blended the two into a single character, and then gave him his own fictional back story.”


Very much true


SARCHIE (Eric Bana) confesses his past deeds to Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez)

Derrickson, whose “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” was highly regarded for its serious treatment of the phenomenon of demonic possession and exorcism, said that unlike monster movies not based on real phenomenon, exorcisms are very much true.


“Exorcisms are real,” he said. “I’m not really interested in trying to propagate people’s belief in the reality of demons or not, but I do think that the phenomenon of exorcism is something that people need to take seriously.  Religious faith is a subject that a lot of people don’t want to talk about, because it raises questions of morality, ethics, the afterlife, how we’re supposed to live, all the great questions.”


Opening across the Philippines on July 2, “Deliver Us From Evil” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.


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