Deliver Us From Evil (United States, 2006)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Forget The Grudge 2, Saw III, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. If you want real horror - the kind that will turn your stomach and curdle your insides - you need look no further than the documentary realm and Deliver Us from Evil. After watching this film, you will believe that evil exists on earth. That the movie deals in truth and established facts makes it all the more disturbing. Deliver Us from Evil takes us behind the curtain of the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in recent years and shows that the problem is not solved. In addition to giving faces and voices to victims who are often anonymous, it offers an interview with a convicted ex-priest who admits his crimes without remorse. That interview marks Deliver Us from Evil as unique - it is a first.

To look at him, one would think he is a kindly grandfather. His appearance and speech are those of a gentle, affable fellow - the kind of man who might be welcomed in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. He is defrocked priest Oliver O'Grady, whose 30 year term of service in the Catholic Church ended when he was convicted of child molestation. The charges against Grady (none of which he denies) include the repeated rape of children under his care, both male and female, with the youngest victim being nine months old; the seduction of an adult woman to gain access to her son; and the destruction of families. Words like "betrayal" and "deception" apply to what O'Grady did to the families whose trust he violated, but they cannot begin to describe the devastation left in his wake: psychological damage, obliterated faith, and a pain that will never go away.

Today, O'Grady roams free in Ireland, having been deported there after serving seven years in prison. That's where filmmaker Amy Berg found him. He agreed to an on-camera interview, and his frank, matter-of-fact comments represent Deliver Us from Evil's most compelling and disturbing material. O'Grady admits his sins but without much sorrow. He acknowledges he did wrong, admitting that "I should have been removed and attended to," but fails to comprehend the damage he has done. O'Grady also damns his former superiors in the Church, including a Cardinal, saying they knew the truth but hid it away. Taken in conjunction with the words of others interviewed for the documentary, the possibility is offered that there's rot in the Vatican. Whose crimes are worse: the priests who commit the rape and molestation or the bishops and cardinals who cover it up, allowing it to continue?

It should be noted that most priests are good men. They are kind, honest individuals living devout lives in service of their calling. For every Oliver O'Grady, there are hundreds of men whose concern for children is non-predatory. The problem is, the higher in power structure one travels within the Church, the greater the culpability. Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, hid O'Grady's pedophilia from the world, even though he knew about it. Instead of taking the priest out of the field and sequestering him in a monastery, he moved him from parish to parish, putting him in positions where he had contact with children. Mahoney, who is a powerful figure in the Church, is believed to have acted similarly in hundreds of cases within his jurisdiction.

In addition to providing an overview of the sex abuse scandal - something accomplished in a scattershot fashion necessitated by the scope of the problem - Deliver Us from Evil presents three case studies of O'Grady's abuse and an interview with Father Tom Doyle, a Canon Law expert who decries the Chruch's response to the scandal and has become an activist for victims. The movie introduces us to Nancy Sloan, who was molested by O'Grady as pre-teenager; Ann Jyono, who was raped by O'Grady repeatedly from age 5 to 12, and her parents, Bob and Maria; and Adam M., who was victimized by O'Grady after the priest slept with his mother to obtain influence over her. Each of these stories is painful to hear, and although the trauma happened many years ago (in the late 1970s and during the 1980s), its impact remains. The most wrenching segment occurs when Bob Jyono, calm and collected throughout most of his interview, vents his anguish and rage at O'Grady. Later, when he states with a chilling certainty that there is no God, his daughter breaks down in tears. Guilt is another form of emotional scarring evident throughout the film.

Berg personalizes a massive crisis by giving us a few examples of the direct and collateral damage it has caused. Her approach is not sensationalistic. She does not step in front of the camera and pontificate. She lets O'Grady and the victims speak for themselves. She uses archival interviews and depositions to obtain testimony from others, like Cardinal Mahoney. And she uses the comments of Father Doyle to put everything in perspective.

One would expect that Deliver Us from Evil will not be the last film to chronicle some aspect of the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal, nor is it the first. Twist of Faith, about a grown firefighter coming to grips with his childhood molestation at the hands of a priest, was nominated for an Oscar. The stories are out there and, as painful as they are to watch, the voices of the victims deserve to be heard, if not by the Church then by anyone who will listen. With Deliver Us from Evil, Berg has been uncompromising in the picture she paints. She pulls no punches and makes no apologies. And in saintly looking Father O'Grady, she has found a villain more demonic than any fictional bad guy.

Deliver Us From Evil (United States, 2006)

Director: Amy Berg
Cast: Father Oliver O'Grady, Father Tom Doyle, Nancy Sloan, Ann Jyono, Bob Jyono, Maria Jyono, Adam M.
Screenplay: Amy Berg
Cinematography: Jacob Kusk, Jens Schlosser
U.S. Distributor: Lionsgate
Ranked #5 in Berardinelli's Top 10 of 2006
Run Time: 1:45
U.S. Release Date: 2006-10-20
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1