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Deliver Us (15)

Director: Cru Ennis, Lee Roy Kunz
Screenplay: Lee Roy Kunz, Kane Kunz

Starring: Lee Roy Kunz, Maria Vera Ratti, Thomas Kretschmann

Review: RJ Bland

Despite the fact that most first world countries are effectively secular, it appears that many of us aren’t quite prepared to fully dispense with our religious heritage. For those of us in Western Europe and the US, that often means Christianity (although there have been a promising number of non-Christian religious horror movies over the last few years). Nuns, churches, priests, crucifixes, exorcisms, God, the devil, witches, demons, angels. These concepts have populated the genre since the very beginning and although church numbers are generally falling, the subject still clearly retain a lot of power over audiences. You don’t have to be a Catholic to find The Exorcist (1974) terrifying after all. And whilst it’s true that religious horror has never really gone away, it’s fair to say that we’re experiencing something of a revival recently. Last year we had The Nun II, The Pope’s Exorcist, Sister Death and…The Exorcist: Believer. Right now, Immaculate is out in cinemas and we haven’t got long to wait until Arkasha Stevenson’s The First Omen is released too. It’s clear that there is still a demand for spiritual horror and it’s sure helping put some bums on seats. However, such a glut can lead to viewer indifference and there’s undoubtedly even more pressure on these films to offer a new angle on this age-old sub-genre. Otherwise, you just end up with something like Prey for the Devil (2022)…or The Exorcist: Believer. Lee Roy Kunz is a man who is probably more aware of this than anyone, seeming as he’s co-directed, co-written and starred in a film called Deliver Us.


Father Fox (Lee Roy Kunz) is a dashing priest on the brink of abandoning his profession. Although he is revered by his peers as being one of the few to have ever successfully performed an exorcism, Fox himself is rather more sceptical, believing that he merely helped a mentally disturbed woman rather than rid her of any demons. On top of this, he hasn’t exactly been sticking to his vow of celibacy, his pregnant girlfriend Laura (Jaune Kimmel) being proof of this! Before he can hang up his robes though, he is despatched to a Russian convent where a young nun named Sister Yulia (Maria Vera Ratti) claims that the twins she is carrying have been immaculately conceived. She's also showing signs of the stigmata. Fox is joined by Cardinal Russo (Alexander Siddig), a man who believes that this whole thing might be part of an ancient Zoroastrian prophecy. That Yulia may not only be about to give birth to the second coming of Jesus, but also the Anti-Christ. What a pickle! The Vatican would rather both twins are eradicated, you know, just in case. But Fox and Russo aren’t into infanticide and duly help Yulia deliver the two little nippers. It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that also residing at the convent is a sinister one-eyed priest (Thomas Kretschmann) who, unbeknownst to Fox and Russo, appears to be part of a violent religious sect with plans to eliminate the ‘evil’ twin. Although it’s anyone’s guess which twin they deem to be the ‘bad one’…


For those who are sat there thinking ‘this sounds a little bit like an Omen spinoff’, you’re right – it does. But let’s face it, any story that centres on a baby that is prophecised to be the spawn of Satan is going to suffer these accusations. Although the plot of Deliver Us may sound familiar at least the execution separates it from some of its contemporaries. You won’t find Russell Crowe racing around on a motorbike or overblown exorcisms or any James Wan style quiet-quiet-bang jump scares. Melodrama and histrionics are few and far between here, which is something of a relief. So many religious horrors invariably descend into bombastic theatrics and on paper, it seemingly has all the ingredients for that kind of film. Wolves, bear traps, psychotic eye-patch wearing priests, apocalyptic visions, beheadings, documents made from human skin, talking babies. But Deliver Us serves up something a little more understated and Kunz and Ennis make all this feel almost reverent. The extravagant elements of the plot take something a backseat as the script from the Kunz brothers is much more interested in its core group of characters and their relationship with each other – and their faith. Kunz is solid as the conflicted (and rather dishy) Father Fox but Maria Vera Ratti (Yulia) is given a wider emotional spectrum to delve into and she does so impeccably. The supporting cast are all good too. Jaune Kimmel excels as Fox’s supportive partner and Kretschmann and Siddig are always good value.


On a technical level, Deliver Us is of a quality that exceeds its modest budget. It’s beautifully shot with everything from expansive North European vistas to claustrophobic candle-lit convents. A sense of the ominous quietly lurks off screen and although we do get some payoff, it is this atmosphere of unease that sustains it for much of its running time. The score, from Þórarinn Guðnason, gives us that disquieting ambience that so many decent modern slow burn horrors rely on nowadays without ever feeling intrusive. If you didn’t know, you might be fooled into thinking this was an A24 production; the film is that handsomely mounted and constructed. However, the best A24 films all have a bit (or a lot in some cases) of bite about them. Films such as Men (2022), Saint Maud (2020), The Witch (2015), Hereditary (2018) – none of these are simply mood pieces. They manage to shock and horrify and thrill too. Unfortunately Deliver Us struggles to really build upon its intriguing first act and although it’s never dull and always easy on the eye, it only attempts to change gears in the last ten minutes or so. Some may find the period between these bookends to be a little bit too rambling and introspective (and there are perhaps one or two too many dream sequences) but those who enjoy moody, sombre Catholic horror, there’s enough here to sink your teeth into.

Deliver Us may not offer up anything particularly fresh in terms of concept and it’s a little light on thrills and scares. However, fans of slow burn religious horror will savour the affecting aesthetic and foreboding atmosphere.
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