Bland horror is a hellish effort
No, this is not (thankfully) a remake of Prom Night IV but a curious mashup of police procedural thriller and supernatural horror.
This collision of genres has been done before — End of Days, Fallen — but does Sinister director Scott Derrickson give the mix of handguns and crucifixes a fresh coat of paint?
The answer is no, not really. If, come the closing credits, you feel like you’ve seen this all before, it’s probably because you have.
Derrickson’s attempts to fuse possession scares with courtroom drama in 2005 chiller The Exorcism of Emily Rose worked to some extent but there isin’t much originality — or genuine terror — in his latest so-called chiller.
The director and his Emily Rose collaborator Paul Harris Boardman adapt Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool’s book Beware the Night and the bizarre tale is supposedly based on “real events’.
Eric Bana plays Sarchie, a New York cop who teams up with priest Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez) to battle demonic possessions in the city.
From the Iraq-set prologue — like The Exorcist’s opening with loud soldiers instead of a calm Max von Sydow — onwards, it’s clear Derrickson is trying to batter our senses.
The film is so dark, you’d be forgiven for thinking someone forgot to pay the electricity bill, there’s more rain than in the average Scottish summer and just about every animal you can think of jumps out at us, culminating in a quite unsettling night-time zoo sequence.
Lazy scares abound, from old favourites like the cat leaping from a cupboard and wild dog barking, to the horror staple of kids’ toys and nursery rhymes used to sinister effect.
The police investigation drags on too long amid Sarchie hearing voices, his daughter being tormented by mysterious scratching in her bedroom and use of lyrics and songs from rock band The Doors.
Bana, in his first true stab at horror, looks lost in the madness surrounding him and Ramirez (Wrath of the Titans) is saddled with way too much exposition to spout.
The pair’s mis-judged bromance amounts to little more than the often seen non-believer needing to be convinced by a man of God.
Funnyman Joe McHale (Butler) basically plays himself and seems to think he’s starring in a comedy and Olivia Munn ( Jen) sports a laughably fluctuating Brooklyn accent. Londoner Sean Harris (Santino) bucks the trend with a chilling performance backed by impressive make-up — even if he does look like a Reaper from Blade II.
The climactic exorcism — all flashing lights, blood and, erm, rain – finally brings some life to events and then... that’s it, with an ending that’s as abrupt as it is disappointing.
Bringing new meaning to the phrase possession is nine-tenths of the law, Deliver Us from Evil aims for devilish horror but the most scary thing about Derrickson’s flick is its insistence on aping other, better tales of terror.
On the case Eric Bana’s Sarchie faces some demons