Popcorn Frights 2023 Review: DELIVER US Delivers the Religious Horror Goods

Contributing Writer; Chicago, IL (@anotherKyleL)
Popcorn Frights 2023 Review: DELIVER US Delivers the Religious Horror Goods

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

Deliver Us begins with a bang; actually, two bangs. A cold open introduces the audience to a ritual with a series of sacrificial beheadings and flayings, so that a priest can better examine the full back tattoos of those murdered.

Then we’re introduced to Sister Yulia (Maria Vera Ratti), a young nun who experiences a moment of ecstasy and terror as her body rapidly shows signs of the stigmata and she sees a statue of the Virgin Mary cry. It’s a brilliant one-two punch that draws viewers into the film’s moody and often brutally violent world.

But it’s not just the visceral violence and miraculous occurrences that make Deliver Us engaging from the start. The film looks and sounds wonderfully ominous as well. The opening scenes are set in the candle-lit, stone walled rooms and blue crystal lamp shade-lit, white tiled bathrooms of a convent.

Later we’re treated to aerial shots of snow-covered Northeastern European landscapes. And all the while, Þórarinn Guðnason’s score provides a deep, low end ambient backing track that ensures the sense of dread created by the film’s opening never eases.

In this beautifully realized atmosphere, the film centers on the young priest Father Daniel (Lee Roy Kunz, who also serves as co-writer and co-director), who, along with a cardinal, has been sent to investigate the veracity of Sister Yulia’s claims of a holy event. She tells the men that she has immaculately conceived twins, one good and one evil, that speak to her through her dreams.

Daniel has significant doubts, but the cardinal (Alexander Siddig) believes that the twins may mark the fulfillment of a Zoroastrian prophecy. That prophecy, and its believers, lead to some fascinating worldbuilding that overwhelmingly works, but sometimes falls closer to confusing than mysterious.

Building on that confusion, Deliver Us doesn’t quite stick the landing in its final moments. But it’s so effective as an atmospheric religious horror movie punctuated by fantastic practical gore that it’s difficult to complain about it not meeting its full potential.

The film enjoyed its world premiere at the Popcorn Frights Film Festival. The film will be available everywhere September 20, 2023, via Magnet Releasing and Magnolia Pictures

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Lee Roy KunzMaria Vera RattiPopcorn Frights

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