Sinister director goes from horrifying to horrible with Deliver Us From Evil

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Starring Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, and Joel McHale. Rated 14A. Now playing.

Director Scott Derrickson's Sinister was one of the better Hollywood fright flicks of 2012. It was a grim descent into domestic horror, with Ethan Hawke convincingly portraying a true-crime writer uncovering genuinely creepy supernatural goings-on at his new home.

Derrickson's latest, Deliver Us From Evil, is pretty much the opposite. It's a heavy-handed descent into urban silliness, with Eric Bana unconvincing as a tough cop uncovering bogus demonic-possession hoo-haw in the Bronx. The movie poster declares INSPIRED BY THE ACTUAL ACCOUNTS OF AN NYPD SERGEANT, as if that's supposed to impress anyone.

The film opens in Iraq in 2010, with a group of U.S. marines battling unseen insurgents. After passing through a forest (in Iraq?) with big black spiders infesting the trees three of the soldiers wind up in a bat-filled underground tomb of sorts with some Latin writing on the wall that turns them into the heavily armed equivalent of Linda Blair in full-on pea-soup mode.

Three years later and New Yawk flatfoot Ralph Sarchie (Aussie Bana with a questionable accent) is working the nightshift with his macho partner Butler (the miscast Joel McHale of TV's Community) when they start to find the grisly results of the returned marines' post-demonic stress disorder. As if to make up for the total lack of anything interesting or slightly original in Deliver Us From Evil the filmmakers lay the gore on super-thick, whether it be a swarm of flies escaping a gaping hole in a corpse's bloated belly or a gutted and crucified housecat pinned to a wall. There's also plenty of closeups of your basic Exorcist-type possession makeup, leading to tedious quips like "Do you think she's single?" from the relentlessly wisecracking Butler.

Into the fray steps whiskey-guzzling priest Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), who explains to the bewildered Sarchie that there's a difference between the evil that men do on a regular basis and "primal evil". When he isn't keeping frothing Walking Dead wannabees at bay with his trusty crucifix the good Father lectures on demonology in the nearest blue-collar bar because that's how renegade exorcists roll in the Bronx.

Classic-rock fans may get a slight kick out of the movie's heavy use of Doors songs and lyrics, but when, just before the big exorcism scene, a demon-ized dude starts spouting lines from Jim Morrison's An American Prayer—"Is everyone in? The ceremony is about to begin"—you'll just be thankful that the Lizard King isn't around to suffer through the hogwash with you.

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