Monday, September 25, 2023

Deliver Us, Co-Starring Alexander Siddig

They are the ultimate Cain and Abel brothers. One will be the Messiah and the other will be the Anti-Christ. Of course, the big question is who will be whom? A lapsing priest will protect them both, believing (or at least hoping) all of God’s children are born innocent in Cru Ennis & Lee Roy Kunz’s Deliver Us, which releases this Friday in theaters and on-demand.

Father Fox is one of the Vatican’s most scholarly young priests, who also has an excellent record as an exorcist. However, he intends to renounce his vows, because he has fallen in love Laura “Kusic” (the press notes did not bother to supply her surname, but that is what it sounded like), an Estonian mining heiress, who is currently battling unfounded claims of water contamination. It seems the Devil very definitely works through environmental scare-mongering.

The Vatican browbeats Father Fox into accepting one last assignment. Supposedly, it will not be an exorcism, but rather a miracle vetting. Apparently, Sister Yulia is pregnant with twins, the immaculate way, of course. Learned Cardinal Russo, whose work Father Fox frequently cited in his own scholarship, has some theories as two who her unborn sons might be. Father Saul, from the ultra-righteous secret ecclesiastical society, Vox Dei, more-or-less confirms those theories when he attempts to abort both infants. However, the subsequent sacrilege Father Fox witnesses (whether real or a vision) makes him suspect Vox Dei hopes to subvert the Church rather than defend it.

With Kusic’s help, the Father and the Cardinal try to protect Sister Yulia and her babies, once they are delivered. Of course, “Father” Saul is hot on their trail—and the Anti-Christ is apparently trying to assist him. Meanwhile, a series of freakish environmental events seemingly herald the End of Days.

Deliver Us
has some decent Catholic-themed demonic horror, which will strongly resonate with Catholic faithful who are frustrated with the state of the Church in Rome. Father Saul warns us the Anti-Christ will come when people feel furthest from the Church. Those are eerily frightening words, particularly coming at a time when the Pope has turned his back on faithful shepherds, like Cardinal Jospeh Zen of Hong Kong, cutting a deal with his oppressors, the CCP, which undermines the Church’s autonomy, instead—but perhaps I digress.

However, it often feels like Ennis, Kunz, and co-screenwriter Kane Kunz try to have things both ways to maximize the scares. Maybe one of the infants is not necessarily destined for evil, until they need him to start implanting temptations and
Scanners-style pain in people’s heads. This film already has so many archetypal hooks—a little less would have ended up being a little more.

Regardless, Alexander Siddig is terrific as Cardinal Russo, both at his erudite start and his apocalyptic finish. He really is an under appreciated genre character actor (and occasional romantic leading man). Co-director Lee Roy Kunz has a Jared Leto thing going on as Father Fox that mostly works for the film. In fact, if you are a fan of Leto, it should be easy to pretend you are watching him.

Frequent movie villain Thomas Kretschmann turns in slightly above-average work as Father Saul, but Maria Vera Ratti underwhelms as Sister Yulia. In contrast, Jaune Kimmel makes a stronger, more lastingly tragic impression as Laura [Kusic].

This kind of demonic horror is truly scary, because there is a widespread perception the Church has lost its moral compass. Kunz and Ennis probably need not have had the aforementioned reason in mind, but they still picked up on the resulting zeitgeist. They also nicely capitalize on the wintery Baltic backdrops. It has its flaws, but it still gets under viewers’ skins rather effectively. Recommended for satanic horror fans,
Deliver Us releases this Friday (9/29).