Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Devil’s Knot and Deliver Us From Evil, two films about an otherwordly evil permeating everyday America.
PremiseBased on Mara Leveritt’s 2002 book about the infamous “West Memphis Three” case, The Devil’s Knot is a crime drama/thriller starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth. In small-town West Memphis, Arkansas, Witherspoon’s world comes crashing down when her eight-year old son is mysteriously murdered alongside two other neighborhood boys. Though the police are quick to arrest three teenagers with ties to a Satanic cult, private investigator Firth tries to prove that the evidence doesn’t match up and that the police have innocent people in custody. Meanwhile, Deliver Us From Evil is a supernatural thriller starring Eric Bana as NYPD cop Ralph Sarchie, who investigates a series of inexplicable crimes. He unexpectedly joins forces with Édgar Ramírez, an unconventional priest who convinces him—despite the officer’s personal beliefs—that demonic possessions are behind these chilling events. Though both films feature interesting character pairings, we’re most anxious to see how the Witherspoon/Firth relationship plays out, since the trailer hints at them becoming allies.Advantage: The Devil’s Knot
TalentThe supporting cast of each film boasts a number of actors known mainly for their work in television. The Devil’s Knot features Stephen Moyer (HBO’s True Blood) as a prosecuting attorney and Amy Ryan (HBO’s In Treatment and The Wire) as Firth’s wife. Deliver Us From Evil stars Olivia Munn (The Newsroom) as Bana’s wife, and Joel McHale (E!’s The Soup) as Bana’s fellow cop and partner. We’re just as curious to see Stephen Moyer on the big screen as we are to see if Joel McHale is capable of anything beyond sarcastic commentary about pop culture, so Amy Ryan swings the vote (sorry, Olivia Munn).Advantage: The Devil’s Knot DirectorThe Devil’s Knot‘s Atom Egoyan is a Canadian stage and film director and Oscar nominee best known for the 2009 erotic thriller Chloe (a movie starring Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore for which Egoyan did not receive an Oscar nomination). Deliver Us From Evil‘s director, Scott Derrickson, is a director/screenwriter/producer responsible for a slew of other paranormal and/or science-fiction related films, such as 2012’s Sinister and 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose. As it turns out, Derrickson wrote the script for both his own Deliver Us From Evil and Egoyan’s The Devil’s Knot, so he takes this category hands down.Advantage: Deliver Us From Evil
Realistic RootsBoth films are tied to real-life events: The Devil’s Knot is “based on” the 1993 trial of the “West Memphis Three,” and Deliver Us From Evil is “inspired by” the Ralph Sarchie’s 2001 book, Beware the Night, which details his investigations of demonic possession and involvement in exorcisms. Obviously, both films have undergone the obligatory Hollywood makeover to turn their real-life events into dramatic feature films with prettier people, but it seems like The Devil’s Knot sticks more closely to its historical roots. We could see Deliver Us From Evil playing pretty fast and loose with the facts.Advantage: The Devil’s Knot
Evil ObsessionsBoth films are thrillers with varying degrees of emphasis on the supernatural, but the satanic cult-type evil in The Devil’s Knot seems like it’ll probably be explained away. (One of the arrested cult members ominously tells an investigator, “Those cops will do anything to get people to say what they want to hear.”) Deliver Us From Evil seems more enmeshed in logic-defying, otherworldly phenomena. For a good half of the trailer we watch Bana and his daughter check under her bed as toys randomly shift, doors creaks and lights flicker. Horror with a side of exorcisms? Here’s to watching from between the cracks in our fingers.Advantage: Deliver Us From Evil
VerdictThe trailer for Deliver Us From Evil goes to great lengths to emphasize the film’s “scare factor”—after a loud bang, there’s a cutaway to a creepy-looking ghoulish man in the corner of Bana’s daughter’s bedroom. Though we’re big believers in Eric Bana as the sole redeeming factor in an otherwise struggling movie (Troy, anyone?), we could see the emphasis on horror coming at the expense of plot and character development. Plus, it’s always interesting to see Colin Firth play anything outside of a reserved Englishman (read: himself), and despite her recent films, Walk the Line still gives us unwavering confidence in Reese Witherspoon’s dramatic prowess.Winner: The Devil’s Knot
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