|Synopsis||When a young Russian nun is discovered to have immaculately conceived, a disgraced Catholic priest is called to come to her protection to aid in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy.|
|Length||1 hour, 43 minutes|
|Release Date||September 29, 2023|
|Directing||Lee Roy Kunz, Cru Ennis|
|Writing||Lee Roy Kunz, Kane Kunz|
|Starring||Lee Roy Kunz, Maria Vera Ratti, Alexander Siddig, Jaune Kimmel, Thomas Kretschmann|
The supernatural/horror/exorcism genre is one that has mostly not figured out an original approach to storytelling since the late William Friedkin popularized the genre with The Exorcist. Every horror film about demons and the supernatural now borrow the tropes and visual storytelling of the original. This is not to say there is no way to do this sort of narrative, but every film is always going to face inevitable comparisons to better movies. Other than a film like Rosemary’s Baby, every exorcism film like The Conjuring, The Haunting in Connecticut, The Pope’s Exorcist, and more will always have to be compared to a masterpiece.
A new entry into the supernatural thriller genre though offers a curious addendum to that genre. While it isn’t strictly a possession film, it is a movie about dark forces emerging from within us, that comes in the tradition of films like The Exorcist, that explore how the supernatural can affect the modern secular world.
Violence/Scary Images: Intense gore and violence throughout the movie, including characters being stabbed, shot, beheaded, skinned, strangled, and injured, with large amounts of blood depicted.
Language/Crude Humor: Some severe language throughout the film.
Drug/Alcohol References: Limited to none. Casual drinking of alcohol.
Sexual Content: Repeated scenes of nudity, with graphic depictions of male buttocks and female breasts and buttocks. One brief graphic sex scene.
Spiritual Content: The film is a supernatural thriller that explores the implications of a Messiah and Anti-Christ figure being born into the modern world.
Other Negative Content: Intense depictions of sex and violence, as well as occult and satanic imagery and themes of lust, failure, and temptation.
Positive Content: Themes of redemption, transformation, and the supernatural’s implications for the future.
Deliver Us has a curious approach to the horror genre. It does something unconventional for this type of movie, leaning heavily into the Christian implications of the genre and functioning like a loose retelling of the Nativity story, albeit set against a modern day environment with massive implications for the future of the world.
While Christian metaphysics are almost always assumed by these horror movies, they are rarely embraced or explored, and this film makes those implications the core of its story. All horror movies do this to some degree—as the existence of demons and priests having power over them has implicit theological implications—but Deliver Us is interesting insofar as its story delves deeper and asks what these events could mean for the future.
The story follows a nun living at a small Catholic convent in St. Petersburg, Russia. She discovers that she has immaculately conceived two children—one prophesied by an ancient lost curse to be the Messiah and the other the anti-Christ. A disgraced American Jesuit priest requests to meet with the nun and protect her when it becomes clear that dark forces are at work that could result in the deaths of all of them.
Deliver Us is not a perfect film. In many ways, it’s a middling horror film that’s quite conventional and overly reliant on cheap violence, jump scares, and allusions to classic horror films. However, the spiritual allusions do add an interesting layer to the film.
The movie’s story is very much structured around grappling with the implications of the prophecy and how these events could easily spiral out of control into the end of the world, with the damnation of all mankind in the balance. Characters talk fairly realistically, with priests having backroom discussions on the implications of their actions, and referring to Catholic moral teachings for what to do. At one point, a Catholic Cardinal is spurred by fear to order the abortion of the twins—to which he is castigated by the Jesuit that this will damn his soul for an eternity.
It’s fascinating that the villains of the piece are the characters most eager to see to it that the prophecy doesn’t come true. As the film implies, this prophecy will only come true through the free will of those involved.
Thomas Kretschmann, recently known for his performance as Baron Strucker in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, plays a strange and horrific character who operates both within and without the church on his very specific mission, and gives a menacing performance as he attempts to stop the prophecy from coming true through brute force and brutality.
The heart of the film though is the central relationship between the Jesuit priest and the nun, who must both make proactive decisions that will either save the world or doom it, and the deaths of either child will end the prophecy. Their central relationship and spiritual connection to one another create some of the film’s most thematically loaded, uncomfortable, and curious allusions and imagery.
I would imagine some of this content is fairly scandalous or unsettling to some viewers, but the film does not appear to be purposely sacrilegious. As the lead actor and director Lee Roy Kunz, a practicing Catholic, told Geeks Under Grace, “We wanted to make a film that [would encourage] secular audiences to engage with the idea of the role God has in their lives. To grapple with the role of evil in our world, and hopefully not to reject God or this world because of it.”
Much of the film’s execution does leave the film in a precarious state from a viewership perspective. It is a very violent, and sexual film that grapples with some bleak subject matter, and that may be more than most Christian audiences are generally prepared to engage with. It’s also a somewhat average horror film that doesn’t necessarily hit the high notes of the greats that proceed it. However, it is fascinating in its desire to explore this approach to the horror genre.
+ Fascinating thematic implications
+ Well filmed and produced
+ Good performances all around
- Bleak and unsettling subject matter and content
- Potentially troubling theological implications
- Somewhat unoriginal story
The Bottom Line
Deliver Us is neither the best nor most original horror film that will likely come out this season, but its fascination with faith and its sincere attempt to delve into the subject matter set it apart as a fascinating watch.