Though not a typical genre film, 1971's Don't Deliver Us From Evil is blatantly unsettling and infused with the kind of spirit that can only be found in someone raised with a taste for Communion crackers and rosary beads. You know the type.
Quick Plot: Meet Anne and Lore, two best friends forever who giggle their way through Catholic school making fake confessions to priests and naughty unions with Satan. Both come from well-to-do families but are completely bored by the dullness of their lives and rigidity of their religion. When Anne's parents go on vacation and leave her mostly unsupervised for two months, she and Lore gradually begin to experiment deeper and deeper into their dark nature.
40 years before the teenage girls of Megan Is Missing could flirt with serial killers online, a pair of 15 year olds were stuck with the ho-hum prospects of poisoning a servant's prized pet birds (one at a time, to make each kill more painful) or teasing the dim-witted farmhand with the prospect of statutory rape. Once they hold a DIY black mass using pilfered Eucharists, it's only a matter of time before Anne and Lore cross the point of no return to their innocence.
Directed by Joel Seria, Don't Deliver Us From Evil was inspired by the infamous New Zealand Parker-Hulme murder, the same basis for Peter Jackson's more famous, yet equally unnerving Heavenly Creatures. Both films share an uncanny ability at capturing the thrills and dangers of female friendship at that vital age of need. Anne and Lore are not necessarily bad girls and on their own, they would probably never come close to committing some of their more nefarious acts. But when you put them together, it becomes all too easy for the scandal-seeking Anne to raise hell, especially when the shyer Lore offers nothing but unadulterated support.
With a title like Don't Deliver Us From Evil, you're probably expecting an exploitation-heavy romp into Catholic school girls gone wrong. But Seria's film is far closer in tone to the theater of the absurd from Jean Genet than anything generally found on a Mill Creek pack. This is far less a horror film than a pre-youth-gone-wild tale from a female point of view. Without its shocking climax, flirty title, and sexual freedom, I almost wonder if it would have a far more respectable reputation.
But make no mistake: this is a disturbing film in both its content and execution. Seria riddles his soundtrack with long stretches of angry organ music accompanied by the devilish high pitched giggles of his ill-meaning characters. Anne and Lore are capable of very bad things, more so because they’re too young to understand that they ARE too young. Flashing your buttcheek to the sexually frustrated cowherd might be a game to you, but the sexually frustrated cowherd ain’t playing by your rules.
The whole of Don't Deliver Us From Evil is quite well-acted, but it's definitely Jeanne Goupil's Anne who takes the show. In her early 20s during filming, Goupil displays a complicated balance of innocence and danger yet never betrays her actual age. Catherine Wagener is also quite good at portraying the quieter Lore, but with her dark features and inner command, it's hard to take your eyes off of Goupil
Holy finale Batman!
I suppose one can only watch a girl playfully tease a man only to be shocked by his lechery so many times before it gets a tad old
Dim-witted cowherds and easily manipulated servants are not the best babysitters for your wayward teen daughter
You shouldn’t watch people pee
If every man you sexually tease proceeds to try to rape you, perhaps you should stop sexually teasing men
Don't Deliver Us From Evil was released by Mondo Macabre with a nice set of special features, making it more than worth a physical rental and possible buy. This isn't a light-hearted romp in exploitation, but I think its odd tone and undeniable quality lend it to rewatches. This film stuck with me long after I placed it back into its Netflix sleeve, and the more I think about how it created such a unique but sympathetic portrait of these girls, the more eager I am to revisit their tale.