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Don't Deliver Us From Evil

Mondo Macabro // Unrated // March 28, 2006
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Mike Long | posted April 20, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Movie

Filmmakers seem to be obsessed with the idea of youth and innocence versus corruption and violence (of course, this concept goes beyond the history of film, as it has existed in literature forever). So many movies have dealt with characters who seem noble and good, only to be revealed as soulless monsters. As time has gone on, these films have continued to push the envelope, showing these characters doing more heinous and shocking things. But, said envelope pushing doesn't always guarantee an entertaining film and the newly released French film Don't Deliver Us From Evil...well, doesn't deliver.

As Don't Deliver Us From Evil opens, we meet Anne (Jeanne Goupil) and Lore (Catherine Wagener), two teenaged girls who attend a Catholic boarding school. It's readily apparent that the girls are very close and find their school life to be very boring. The girls go home on the weekends and find time to see each other. They begin to plot sinister things. When Anne's parents go away for two months and leave their daughter behind, this gives the girls time to renovate part of a chateau into a private apartment -- this enables them to do sordid things away from the prying eyes of the servants. The girls begin to indulge in sacrilegious activities and then escalate to vandalism. As their behavior grows more aberrant, their bond grows stronger. What can stop these two violent vixens?

As a former FANGORIA magazine subscriber who got burned far too many times by the spoiler pictures printed in that publication, I work very hard to avoid hype or pre-conceived notions about movies. However, I had read that Don't Deliver Us From Evil was based on the same real-life case which inspired Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, so I had expected something similar from Don't Deliver Us From Evil. Maybe it was these expectations which helped to form my opinions about the movie, or maybe Don't Deliver Us From Evil is simply a bad movie.

As noted above, the "innocent children do bad stuff" genre certainly isn't new and in the best examples of these stories, we often see an evolution of the individual's "badness", or at least some sort of explanation for their behavior. Writer/director Joel Seria has skipped that step with Don't Deliver Us From Evil and given us a sort of 1970 version of Less Than Zero, where the only explanation for evil seems to be the fact that the girls are rich and bored.

The lack of a true explanation or backstory robs the film of a cohesiveness which it desperately needs. When the film begins, Anne and Lore are already friends and have started to plot their strange actions. We quickly learn that Anne is the stronger (willed) of the two and that she leads Lore. The leaps in logic which the viewer is forced to make render the film's story very simplistic. The girls decide to devote their lives to Satan...because they resent going to Catholic school? (I sincerely doubt that it has anything to do with the fact that this sort of sensationalism would sell tickets.) The girls taunt men...because they are on the verge of their sexual awakening and realize that they can? (These actions nearly lead to rape, not once, but twice. This only made me assume that Anne and Lore weren't very smart.) We watch the girls do brutal and wicked things, and yet the fact that it all feels very mechanical makes Don't Deliver Us From Evil come across as very hollow and disconnected.

To the movie's credit, the final scene is somewhat shocking, but only in the sense that it is totally unexpected. Respected cult movie company Mondo Macabro has dropped the ball on this release and potentially robbed the viewer of a cumulative experience. Just before that bizarre final scene, a letter from Anne is read by a nun. The letter is clearly shown to the camera. The problem is that it's written in French and there is no voice-over or subtitles to tell people like me who took 3 years of French and don't remember any of it what the letter says. Was it important? Did it foreshadow that final scene? I have no idea. I do know that the surprising ending doesn't change the fact that the movie is poorly-paced, cheap-looking, and an overall disappointment.


Don't Deliver Us From Evil is delivered to DVD courtesy of Mondo Macabro. The film has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Given the film's age and obscure nature, the transfer looks pretty good, although it was clearly struck from a theatrical print. The image is sharp and shows very little grain. Given the fact that the movie was shot in Eastmancolor, I had expected the colors to be a bit richer, as they are slightly washed-out here. The transfer reveals defects from the source material, such as scratches and black spots, but Mondo Macabro has clearly taken the time to clean the print, so these aren't overly distracting.


The Don't Deliver Us From Evil DVD features a Dolby digital stereo audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and music reproduction, but to be honest, I didn't hear much in the way of stereo separation. The track always exhibits a very faint hissing. The subtitles are bright and easy to read.


This DVD contains a few extras. "Hellish Creatures: Paul Buck on the Movie" (12 minutes) features Paul Buck (?) discussing the real-life case of the Parker-Hulme murders in New Zealand and Don't Deliver Us From Evil. The problem is that he never really makes a point, as he jumps from topic to topic and holds up many books. We don't learn about the real murder case or the movie here. "Interview: Director Joel Seria" (15 minutes) gives the writer/director an opportunity to discuss his life, his career, and the making of the film. He also talks about his influences and the meaning of Don't Deliver Us From Evil. With "Interview: Star Jeanne Goupil" (12 minutes), we hear the actress recount her work on the film and how she brought a natural aspect to her acting. "About the Film" is a text entry which gives info on the history of the movie. The extras are finished off by an Art Gallery.

The DVD box for Don't Deliver Us From Evil proclaims that the film was banned. Over the years, I've learned that most films which were "banned" were probably done so because they were bad movies, not because of the content. Don't Deliver Us From Evil is a boring, confusing, and silly movie that shows us two girls who do awful things, but never gets past the surface. Do yourself a favor, stick with Heavenly Creatures. I wish that I'd done so and told the postal worker "Don't deliver this move to me!"
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