WonderCon attendees were the first to get a five-minute preview of Deliver Us from Evil, the film Sony is hoping taps into a little bit of that Conjuring-like summer success when it opens in theaters on July 2nd. The preview mixed previously-seen trailer footage with new clips as well as talking head-style interviews with Ralph Sarchie, the police officer whose experiences and book served as inspiration for the film. The promo was intriguing and, at times, chilling. There were definitely a few "what the f**k?" moments, but more importantly, it demonstrated that director Scott Derrickson wasn't retreading supernatural territory he mined in The Exorcism of Emily Rose or Sinister.
Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris and Joel McHale star in the supernatural thriller, which follows New York police officer Sarchie (Bana), who is struggling with his own personal issues. As he begins investigating a series of disturbing and inexplicable crimes, he joins forces with an unconventional priest (Ramirez), schooled in the rituals of exorcism, to combat the frightening and demonic possessions that are terrorizing their city.
Derrickson spoke with Shock Till You Drop about some of what we had seen in the promo and this film's origins following the WonderCon presentation.
Ryan Turek: What strikes me, based on that five minute promo, is that we're getting a supernatural thriller not confined to a house or a rural location. This is in the city…
Scott Derrickson: In the Bronx. It's all where it happened. When you go out there, it's so powerful, as a director, to walk those streets, especially at night, and see there's no place in the world like the Bronx. There's no place in New York like the Bronx. The idea that the city would become a character became an idea really early on, but it's also connected thematically to the character of Sarchie because this area of the Bronx was so violent. So much violent crime going on. Sarchie was part of a now disbanded unit called the Street Crimes Division. His job, every night, was to go out with four to six guys and they would look to find violent crimes in progress. They were looking to catch bad shit as it went down. He would go into the worst buildings because he knew stuff was happening. In his book, he wrote about the things he saw. Evil. Absolute evil. Things parents did to their children, things people did to each other and themselves. These contaminated streets had an impact on Sarchie. I met the real-life Ralph Sarchie, he's retired from the force now, but you can feel the soiled qualities and darkness. That was a big thing for me with this movie because a guy like that encountering a different kind of evil, a paranormal evil…there's something fascinating about that.
Turek: There's a shot in the promo which depicts what looks like a woman tossing a child. What's the story there?
Derrickson: That was inspired by a true event that didn't happen in the same location in the movie. But that ended up in the screenplay. The real event was just something no one wants to see. It was something that I had no interest in shooting because it's that messed up. That's the kind of evil Sarchie saw, though.
Turek: This has been a bit of a passion project for you, hasn't it? Something that's been in the works a bit for you?
Derrickson: What happened was in 2004 Jerry Bruckheimer optioned the novel and I came on board to work on it then as a writer. I went to New York with my writing partner to meet the real Ralph Sarchie. I was only there three or four days and Ralph gave me an out of print copy of "The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel" – I optioned that for myself [laughs] and when this project went into further development with other writers, I wasn't attached as director at the time, so I went and made The Exorcism of Emily Rose. What happened is after I didn't Sinister, Clint Culpepper at Sony asked me what I wanted to do next and I told him about this project because I always loved it. I always thought Ralph Sarchie was an amazing character. He went and read my original script and said he wanted to do it. But, that script was written in 2004 before Emily Rose and onslaught of other possession movies. So, I had to do a tremendous amount of rewriting to turn it into something I thought was appropriate for now.
Turek: And did you put blinders on to avoid the current crop of supernatural films while you were in this processof rewriting?
Derrickson: I watch it all. I try to stay up to date with everything coming out as long as it's halfway decent. I'm a genre fan, for one, and I just like to see what's out there. In this case, I just felt the police procedural aspect was crying out for some real originality. And that's something that's really been driven into the ground, especially with television. To get both aspects to a place where it felt progressive and fresh and appropriate for a Friday night, summer audience… I didn't know it was going to happen, but I'm glad it did.
Turek: You shot the film last year and at that time they intended an early 2015 release date – why so far out, originally? I was always curious about that.
Derrickson: I think they liked that date for the genre. But Sony moved it as soon as they saw a cut of the film. They said, "Nope, we're putting this out in the summer."
For Derrickson's comments on the forthcoming Sinister 2, check out this news item.