Film Review: Deliver Us From Evil

August 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Released: 2013; Narrative Short; Written & Directed by: Robert McDermott; With: Bill Dablow, Craig Roath, Scott Awalt, Christopher Johnson

Deliver Us From Evil is a tense, nervy, little movie with a straightforward narrative set against a sparse backdrop of dull air and paltry bits of melting snow. Sam (Christopher Johnson) and Jimmy (Scott Awalt) pick up jumpy stranger (Craig Roath) on the side of a Midwestern two-lane. They take him to their Uncle Frank’s (Bill Dablow) home just down the road to pick up some tools in order to fix his broken down van. They realize quickly that he’s not what he seems. Let the games begin.

Interestingly enough, DUFE is also, honestly, a little bit of a love story. The bits and pieces of Midwestern life, a Midwestern winter, are everywhere. Uncle Frank lives in a farmhouse, full of wood trim, with ample square footage, and small rooms. He listens to a police scanner and serves up Spam casserole, corn, and white bread for lunch. He’s firm in his polite behavior, requiring a meal before vehicle repair and insisting that Jeff, the stranger, say “grace” before their meal. When Sam mentions a handicap identification tag on Jeff’s van, asking if he’s “biopolar or something,” Uncle Frank shakes his head and gives Sam an admonishing look. It’s perfect, and not a clever cliché. It’s absolute Midwestern reality, and it, along with the landscape, dry and lonely in the winter months (with the understanding that it will thrive soon enough) are a lovely testament to the setting.

Technically, the movie is long on creativity. Films frequently parallel their plot’s moments with technical elements that draw attention and to allow for a more layered narrative, sort of like highlighter. This film’s highlighter is in its camera work. DUFE’s narrative tension allows for almost manic, sickening camera movements. Upon achieving goals, finding keys, feeling satisfaction, the camera relaxes and the movements are fluid and paced. It’s a really nice approach and it doesn’t beat the viewer over the head. It certainly occasionally elicits a bit of anxiety, though, which is perfect here.

The music in the movie is a frantic hum, a combination of strings and keys that build to a sort of tense, fevered place before revealing and releasing the pressure with an alarming thud of sound. It’s a well-used element that, along with the camera’s unease make for a really restless delivery.

There’s not a poor performance here, but it’s Dablow who makes the most of the time allotted. His Frank is developed, a capable man with a moral code and ballsy behavior which serve him well. He’s also carrying on with a pack of cigarettes in a way that’s totally lacking in speculation.

Not only did I enjoy this movie, but I appreciated it, and I think you will too. Enjoy!

-Leah Gehlsen

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