We always knew hell was in the Bronx.
On the night of July 12, 2013, we took it upon ourselves to visit the set of supernatural police procedural Deliver Us From Evil (at the time titled Beware the Night) as it lensed in arguably New York's most unappreciated borough. Directed by horror favorite Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) and starring our favorite ex-Hulk Eric Bana, the film is taken from the files of real-life cop-turned-demonologist Ralph Sarchie.
In 2001 Sarchie published his memoir of working for the NYPD while moonlighting as an investigator of demonic possessions. Titled "Beware the Night," the book caught the attention of Derrickson, who envisioned his adaptation as a story of a tough, pragmatic cop who goes from skeptic to true believer while battling forces beyond most people's comprehension, all while trying to keep his family safe.
"It’s a story about that transformation," Derrickson explains, "about him running into things he can’t explain and then entering into a relationship and friendship with a Catholic priest [played by Édgar Ramírez] who’s a very atypical priest. He’s a really complicated guy with a dark past, and emotionally, it’s about those two people as individuals, what’s happened to them in the past and how coming together, something very explicit happens. That’s really what’s at the core of it. And within that, there’s action, horror, possession and all the things that you want to have in a genre film."
"Without giving too much away," said Bana, "I’m playing the role of someone who is selling the supernatural to himself when he comes across it. It’s the beginning of that character’s journey. He’s just a 46th precinct, tough-as-hell cop. So, that’s who he is. He has no pre-determined belief in the supernatural or anything like that."
Perhaps spurred on by the impending success of Warners' The Conjuring, Sony has conjured their own "reality-based" paranormal investigator franchise, which also owes a debt to Kolchak: The Night Stalker, a series Derrickson is an admitted fan of. It's certainly no coincidence, since Sarchie actually worked with Ed and Lorraine Warren in the past. We got the chance to sit down with Sarchie, who's been on set every single day.
"I’ve worked with The Warrens," Sarchie disclosed. "For about 20 years. I was really good friends with Ed. Ed and Lorraine. We went our separate ways, there were a few differences. In their organization, being that they were from Connecticut, I started the New York City chapter of the organization and handled things in New York. But eventually I was out on my own. But I’ve been friends with them for a long time."
"Ralph was much more of a skeptic at the time when this was all happening," adds Derrickson. "You know, Ralph wasn’t a guy who was working the dark streets of the Bronx in the 46th and going to church every day. He was a complete lapsed Catholic, had no interest in religion. When certain cases he was involved with started to not only get his curiosity up but he started needing some consultation help from people, that’s what started the process and started the ball rolling for him. This is where I think the movie really is a true story, that it didn’t just transform his beliefs—it certainly did do that—but clearly it transformed his character, who he is as person, much more. Did he believe it? Well, yeah, he’s a Bronx Italian. He’s like, “Yeah, f**k yeah, I believe in Jesus. Now get the f**k on the pavement, asshole.”
"I got to meet Ralph and spent some time with him and just selfishly kind of cherry-picked what I felt would work well for the film," Bana explained of his version of Sarchie. "So I have stolen some bits and pieces and some elements, but it wasn’t entirely essential. He was just very giving in his time. There are certain elements to police at work in the 46 and in the Bronx. There’s a certain way about them that you can’t get away with not playing. So getting some time with those guys was really helpful."
"He’s been studying me," admits Sarchie with some hesitation. "We don’t just sit down and talk, he’s actually studying me. It makes me a little uncomfortable being under that microscope. But I think Eric immured himself with the script and is doing what he needed to do. I sort of stayed away from him until he was comfortable. It’s a little tough to be somebody if they’re in the room with you."
He may be a cop/demonologist, but Sarchie is focusing solely on the former and not so much the latter as an advisor to production. "The only reason I’m here is for police procedure," he says. "As far as how the actors act, it’s up to Scott. He’ll be the first to tell me, 'save it for the Police stuff.' It’s just procedure and the way cops act, the tactics. Making it as realistic as possible. I’m honored to be here because it doesn’t happen that often from what I hear. They keep people like me away."
There's only two weeks left on this rarest of things: a midrange film, budgeted at $40-$50 million. Since studios these days are only making tiny $10-million movies or massive $200-million ones it's a mini-miracle that producer Jerry Bruckheimer – yes, he of Armageddon and numerous Pirates of the Caribbean movies – was able to scare up the cash to make Deliver Us From Evil.