Every member of a film crew likely has a specific goal in mind when they are working on a production. One person could want to make a movie that breaks box office records. Another could work on the feature hoping to eventually hear their name called during awards season. Another could simply wish to make a good film that helps viewers forget their worries for two hours.
Retired Police Sergeant Ralph Sarchie, the inspiration behind the new thriller Deliver Us From Evil who served as an advisor on the film, has a more complex goal in mind for his movie. He wants it to help bring people back to Church.
After a recent roundtable interview in Los Angeles with Sarchie and director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister), Sarchie said that he would consider the film a success if two buddies went to the movie and after seeing it, one of them encouraged the other one to go back to Church.
It’s a noble but admittedly strange goal for a man who once worked as a police officer in the 46th Precinct in the South Bronx, considered one of the toughest neighborhoods in the nation. In his sixteen years working there, Sarchie had witnessed humanity at his worst. “All that evil and all that pain and suffering. I was like ‘God has nothing to do with this place,’” he thought.
While his faith in God and the devil persisted during that tenure, he often didn’t actively practice his religion. “I wasn't going to Mass. I wasn't praying. I was doing everything opposite of what God wanted me to do,” he said.
He had, in a way, lost his faith.
But then things changed for the Sergeant. He began looking into the paranormal and even came face to face with demonic possessions. He eventually left the police force and began focusing on studying and investigating supernatural occurrences (even assisting in a few exorcisms along the way).
Before he did that, he faced a major decision.“I realized that I needed to get back to my faith and get back to God. I could not get involved in this work without doing that,” he said.He eventually even realized about his experiences in the Bronx that God “was more prevalent there than anywhere and I didn't pick it up because I wasn't looking. That's the thing. You gotta look for him in order to find him.”
Sarchie eventually wrote a book about his experiences with the supernatural entitled Beware of the Night. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer later purchased the rights to the book. When Bruckheimer met with Derrickson about bringing concepts from the book to the big screen, Buckheimer—according to Derrickson— told the director “that he wanted to make Serpico meets The Exorcist,”a concept that Derrickson thought was“the coolest idea ever.” The film eventually came together with a star-studded cast that includes Eric Bana (Lone Survivor, Black Hawk Down) as Sarchie and Olivia Munn, Joel McHale and Edgar Wright as members of the supporting cast.
Of course, Derrickson—who also co-wrote the script— infused the production with supernatural occurrences and with scary scenes that inevitably occur in horror films but he, like he did in his previous works, wanted to accomplish something more. He said that there was a whole kitchen-sink mentality to the movie and added that he wanted it to be “a big kind of glossy Jerry Bruckheimer movie that gave you all of that stuff and yet has a five minute conversation about God in a bar in the middle of the movie.”
Deliver Us from Evil is a horror film, to be sure, but it’s often much more than that. As Derrickson noted, “I definitely think it's a movie about moral behavior, moral guilt and the spiritual component of that and… the process of confronting one's own moral past.”
It’s a movie about good battling evil but with its religious undertones, it could in fact lead people to question their own religious beliefs and it may, as Sarchie hopes, even bring people back to Church as his experiences with the supernatural once brought him back to God.
Deliver Us From Evil opens in theaters nationwide tomorrow.