There have been more than a few exorcism films popping up in recent years, as the biblical battle between one or more Catholic priests, and the demonic entities that wish to enslave the world continue to fascinate and enthral audiences worldwide. Deliver Us takes a twist on the formula by pitting a lapsed Priest, Father Fox (Lee Roy Kunz), up against the antichrist himself, dwelling in the belly of pregnant nun, Sister Yulia (Maria Vera Ratti). Of course to make matters more awkward, she’s also carrying his twin brother, the new Messiah, and the pair are already at war in her womb.

It’s not the first time that the unborn antichrist has been featured as the centre-point of a horror film, be it Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, or Álex de la Iglesia’s criminally underseen black comedy, El Dia de la Besta. Given that the conflict over the souls of humanity is one with rather large stakes, it’s surprising that this is something of a lowkey film, although one that certainly tries hard.

Lee Kunz (who also co-directs), and his co-writer brother, Kane Kunz, have certainly pulled out some stops to craft a story that kicks off interestingly enough. Deep in the Russian forests, in an unassuming convent, Sister Yulia’s sudden and apparently immaculately conceived pregnancy kicks off a series of strange events. She can inexplicably speak English, and starts asking for help from Father Fox. However, Fox is about to leave the church, having given up on the Exorcism business, and managed to impregnate wealthy Oil company heiress, Laura (Jaune Kimmel). Assuming this is a case of undiagnosed mental illness, Fox takes on this one last mission, which quickly becomes a life and death struggle. Saving the mother and twins from each other, and from the cult that wants to kill one or the other.

The problem with Deliver Us, is that it has no idea what film it wants to be, and tries to be about six different ones in the brief hundred or so minutes it lasts. The opening act is genuinely well put together, contrasting the snow-bound convent, and its candle-lit halls, with the ice wastes outside. There are some great spooky moments of Fox wandering the halls, being frightened by nuns, or arguing with Cardinal Russo (Alexander Siddig), all while a scarred and one-eyed Thomas Kretschmann looms in the shadows as the sinister Father Saul.

But after this moody and fun opening, the film takes off, threatening to turn into a chase movie, only to quickly slide into a bizarre and overcomplicated series of subplots and inexplicable events. It’s frustrating to watch, as the general level of filmmaking is high. The cinematography and sound editing are excellent, the moody locations feel creepily real, and the moments of gore and pain are bloodily visceral. Yet, the plethora of weird prophecies, inexplicable phantom figures, the origins and wants of the odd cult chasing the group are all left mostly unexplained. 

It’s genuinely unfortunate, as it’s hard to maintain any sense of care for the characters, when the plot is so uninterested in making itself clear to the audience, and yet at the same time remaining largely predictable and all a little bit silly. One largely for genre completists, and certainly not the most inauspicious career start for the writing and directing team.

Available on digital platforms now