DON’T DELIVER US FROM EVIL (1971) – The Dungeon Review!
Don’t Deliver Us From Evil has been on my to see list for a number of years but I had not been able to find it until recently. If you’ve seen Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures you will have some idea what this one is about. Both films are based on the shocking 1954 New Zealand murder of Honora Rieper who was bludgeoned to death by her teenage daughter Pauline Parker, and her best friend Juliet Hulme. Heavenly Creatures is a more accurate version of the story while Don’t Deliver Us From Evil is only loosely based on the Parker-Hulme case. French director Joël Séria adds several elements from his own Catholic upbringing to the story adding a deliciously blasphemous touch that got his film banned in France.
The film begins with Anne watching as a nun gets undressed behind a sheer curtain. She then hides under her sheet with a flashlight and writes in her diary. Her friend Lore sneaks in with her to show her a book of erotic writing she found in the convents attic. The two girls are close friends and in this opening scene it is made clear that it is their desire to do as many naughty things as possible. The girls attend school at a Catholic convent where they live through the week. On weekends they go home to their families and the girls generally see each only briefly on Sundays when they attend church with their parents. Stifled by their religion and the anal retentive system they are forced to be a part of they want nothing more than to rebel against it. Their first order of business is to renounce Jesus and offer themselves to Satan so he may “help them be ever more wicked and help them do evil”. As summer vacation approaches they make plans for a ceremony and steal various religious artifacts from the convent. While attending church we see the girls accept the body of Christ wafers in their mouths, which they later remove, and hide away. Summer vacation finally arrives and Anne’s parents are leaving her alone for two months. Soon the girls are seeing each other every day. They spend time reading controversial books and riding their bicycles but are soon teasing older men and letting cows out of their penned in areas. It isn’t long before their actions become more sinister. Eventually the girls are faced with a situation where they are forced to defend themselves and the result ends in death. The film climaxes with a great surprise ending that left me completely silent.
Anne and Lore look like typical teenagers, they appear to come from relatively stable homes and seem to have little to complain about. There is some strain between each girl and her parents, but who wants to spend a lot of time hanging out with their parents when they are teenagers? Speaking for myself, I thought my parents were a stone cold drag when I was in my teen years. The girls are generally buoyant and spend a lot of time giggling. These are not morose teens that never smile and wear black clothing. These girls look very young and really do seem to carry a certain amount of innocence. There is no denying the strong sexual undercurrent in the film. Although Lore and Anne are clearly interested in sexuality they have no use for sex. Although Anne is the more dominant of the two it is Lore who relentlessly teases a man much older than her. Lore has no intention of following through, and this in fact is what ends up being the girls undoing. Both girls are well cast and have excellent chemistry together. Jeanne Goupil is amazing as Anne. It is hard to believe this was her first acting role. The black haired beauty plays it light and carefree and is very natural. Doe-eyed blonde Catherine Wagener plays Lore with the perfect balance of submissiveness and mischievousness. The film is a bit slow paced early but there is some necessary background learned which does enhance the action later on. Once summer vacation begins things get quite lively. There are some disturbing moments in the film although certainly by modern standards it is quite tame. There is no blood or gore in Don’t Deliver Us From Evil. The disturbing moments come from the girl’s blatant cruelty, particularly where it pertains to the feeble-minded gardener. The film has a ton of style and great locations and at times it has an almost dream-like quality. There are some interesting extras on the DVD, which include interviews with Director Joël Séria, actress Jeanne Goupil and writer Paul Buck.
The film was more subtle and artful then I was expecting. Not that this is a bad thing, I was just expecting something more hysterical and over the top along the lines of Alucarda. This aside, Don’t Deliver Us From Evil is a fascinating film and is quite mesmerizing. The outstanding performances, mood and style alone are reason to seek this one out, but the absolutely unforgettable ending cinches the deal! This is a found gem that comes highly recommended!
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Joël Séria
Starring: Jeanne Goupil, Catherine Wagener, Gérard Darrieu, Marc Dudicourt, Michel Robin, Véronique Silver, Jean-Pierre Helbert, Nicole Mérouze, Henri Poirier, Serge Frédéric, René Berthier, Frédéric Nort