Deliver Us From Evil belongs to a cinematic category well-known to roleplayers: the movie that doesn’t really pay off, but serves as a strong mood and tone reference for a game. Specifically, it comes as close as anything in the DVD racks to conveying the feel of The Esoterrorists. In this entry in the based-on-supposedly-real-life-story horror sub-genre Eric Bana plays NYPD police detective Ralph Sarchie. With a gung ho partner played by Community’s Joel McHale, he investigates a series of crimes connected by symptoms of demonic possession. He finds a connection between the cases in the uncovering of an ancient evil by US soldiers in Iraq. For much of its runtime, through Scott Derrickson’s direction, it presents a compelling fusion of the hard-boiled modern cop drama with supernatural horror. Along the way the story picks up a third player character role model, a hipster priest with a dark past played by Edgar Ramirez.
Like many mash-ups the film falters in the stretch, when it has to decide which genre it will maintain its loyalty to and jumps back into the conventional. Deliver Us From Evil sticks to its supposedly real roots by concluding with a not terribly fresh or exciting exorcism sequence, distinguished only by the fact that it takes place in a police interrogation room. If you’ve seen one cinematic exorcism, you seen this one too. However, since the direction, particularly its fusion of creepy mood with cop drama elements, far outclasses the material, you can select choice snippets and sequences to inspire your Esoterrorists players. The entering the creepy basement with guns and flashlights drawn sequence would serve particularly well in this respect. Also useful for this purpose are squad room scenes in which the cops scour security footage and find signs of the uncanny. Swap in Outer Dark Entities for the 70s paperback demons and you’ll be cooking with gas.
For an actually fully recommendable Derrickson movie, check out Sinister with Ethan Hawke and a supernatural enemy very much like an ODE. Derrickson is now in development on the Marvel Dr. Strange movie. The many Steve Ditko frames he’s posting on social media are raising my hopes for his take on psychedelic occultism. In the meantime, if you spot Deliver Us From Evil on disc at a bargain price, snap it to excerpt it as tone fodder for your next Esoterrorists run.
The Esoterrorists are occult terrorists intent on tearing the fabric of the world – and you play elite investigators out to stop them. This is the game that revolutionized investigative RPGs by ensuring that players are never deprived of the crucial clues they need to move the story forward. Purchase The Esoterrorists in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.