Inspired by the real events in the life of ex-NYPD cop and demonologist Ralph Sarchie, director Scott Derrickson presents a gripping narrative in his supernatural horror film ‘Deliver Us from Evil.’ The 2014 movie follows South Bronx police officer Ralph, who isn’t scared of entering dark alleys and creepy basements since he feels everything has a logical explanation to it. When some strange things start happening related to the cases he is working on, and there seems to be no way out, he turns to Father Mendoza for help.
Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez) is an unconventional Jesuit priest who crosses paths with Ralph (Eric Bana) after the latter arrests Jane Crenna for her involvement in a case. Father Mendoza is familiar with Jane’s family and wants to save her. He soon becomes a crucial part of Ralph’s journey towards realizing the impact of the supernatural. As the pair team up, you get curious about his involvement in Ralph’s real life. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Father Mendoza’s Original Roots, Explained
Father Mendoza is not based on a real priest. In fact, his character has been inspired by some real people and ideas of what such an important influence in Ralph’s life should look like. He was initially written as a combination of two mentors in the real Ralph Sarchie’s life in 2003, but Derrickson wasn’t satisfied with the character since it felt too stereotypical for horror movies to him. He later decided to make him a Latin-American priest, but more modifications to the character were in store.
The director credits Ramirez for bringing life to the character, not just on-screen, but with the suggestions he was able to share about what this character should be like before the script was final. In an interview, Derrickson revealed how the character was improved over lunch one day in Beverly Hills with Ramirez, who had initially refused to do the film. Ramirez shared a moving story about his friend, a Jesuit priest in Venezuela, whose struggle with addiction helped him convert and become a priest.
Aside from the intriguing story and the impact this friend had on Ramirez’s life, Derrickson decided this was the kind of angle he wanted to give to the character and went with it. Apart from that, the two mentors who initially influenced the character of Father Mendoza were Bishop Robert McKenna and Father Malachi Martin. Robert McKenna was a sedeprivationist bishop who performed plenty of exorcisms, some of which were assisted by Ralph in New York.
Malachi Martin was a Catholic priest and a brilliant author who also mentored Ralph and is known for his many fiction and non-fiction published works. Some of McKenna’s cases as he worked with demonologists were also investigated by the Warrens. He died at the age of 88 in 2015, becoming the world’s last Dominican Catholic bishop. Martin, whose ‘Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Living Americans’ is the scariest book Derrickson claims to have read, also passed away much earlier at the age of 78 from a head injury due to a fall in 1999.
Evidently, Ralph couldn’t have found his calling without Father Mendoza having his back in the film, which is why it seems the director chose this character as a combination of his mentors and the kind of priest that even the audience would relate to with a clear message that priests are also human, and everyone deserves a chance at redemption.