In his two previous horror films, ‘Sinister’ and ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’, director Scott Derrickson displayed more flair for supernatural spectacle and jump scares than for narrative logic or exploring underlying themes. His latest, based on ex-NYPD cop turned paranormal investigator Ralph Sarchie’s 2001 memoir, suffers from the same weaknesses.
Eric Bana plays Sarchie, a lapsed Catholic with a murky past, an adrenaline-junkie partner and an uncanny ‘radar’ for abuse cases involving wives, children and pets. He is drawn back to the path of righteous by plain-clothes Spanish priest Mendoza (Edgar Ramírez), who believes that three domestic abuse cases linking three Iraq war veterans have their source in something more than post-traumatic stress disorder.
A pre-credits episode in an Iraqi cave daubed with obscure Latin inscriptions and an incident in which a soldier’s wife throws her baby into the zoo’s lion enclosure suggest the priest may have a point. An impressively staged climactic exorcism, during which British actor Sean Harris’s devil-possessed ex-soldier contorts his body and distorts his voice in distressing ways, compensates in part for the random, far-fetched storytelling that precedes it.