For decades now the idea of exorcism has floated around in the horror genre as one of the scariest and most psychologically challenging subject matters to audiences. You only have to look at the fact that The Exorcist is now on stage in London to see the impact that story is still having to this day. The mixture of religion with the physical and mental suffering of a child and her family is something that stands the test of time because of how it gets to people in so many different ways. But the most important thing is that behind these well known tales is an element of truth and an inspiration out there in the real world, and that’s where we find ourselves with new documentary Deliver Us.
As someone who has no real religious beliefs I’ve always found it compelling to see insights into those that have such strong links to the church and have always been brought up to allow their lives to revolve around it. So to watch a documentary like Deliver Us shows a whole new world that I’m unfamiliar with and it’s a completely fascinating and impactful journey to follow. You get the views of two sides – those working for the church itself and the people turning up for help and seeking solace in the religious words and teachings. Here we’re thrown into a world of pain and suffering with people believing they need to be exorcised, and either voluntarily putting themselves in a position to seek help or being forced along by family. It’s a tough watch and Deliver Us doesn’t shy away from the suffering these people are going through.
It would be very easy to reduce the subject matter to something out of a horror movie, relying on cheap scares, but thankfully there’s an honesty to Deliver Us that keeps it grounded in reality. When you see people writhing on the floor in pain, struggling against the prayers and the teachings, there’s nothing fake about it and it doesn’t feel embellished for dramatic effect. Whether you believe in the actual religious aspects of the situation or not is almost irrelevant. It doesn’t take away from what these people are going through, desperately fighting against demons – whether religious or mental – and it’s that core of the story that is what makes Deliver Us worth watching. This is reality no matter what angle you take it from.
The modernity of exorcism is another interesting aspect to the tale. We see conferences discussing different approaches from priests all over the world, the difficulties with the volume of people needing help and even the use of technology to allow for distance healing. For something that is so strongly rooted in historical teaching it’s clear that the Catholic Church is at least somewhat willing to embrace the present and future as long as it benefits those who believe. It’s such a strange clash of various elements but it works in surprising ways and in the end as long as people get the help they need that’s all that matters.
Federica Di Giacomo’s work here is carefully balanced and treads carefully, never exploiting or feeling overly intrusive. You get just enough information from both sides to feel like you’re getting a fair amount of the picture which is all you can ask for with a documentary. It’s a difficult genre with many different agendas floating around so audiences have to be careful with the information provided. It never feels as if anyone’s trying to suga coat the facts here and Deliver Us simply opens the doors to a very serious subject that continues to have a stronghold to this day. The screams, twitches and desperation are all too real. It’s just up to the viewer to decide what the true cause is.
Deliver Us is out now.
Dir: Federica Di Giacomo
Run time: 94 mins