Catholic schoolteacher Maya Larkin (Ryder) - herself the victim of an earlier Satanic possession - assists at the unsuccessful exorcism of a crazed murderer, which renders her mentor and saviour Father Lareaux (Hurt) catatonic. Cryptic numerical codes in the psychopath's journals suggest the Devil is planning to take human form by possessing bestselling 'true crime' author Peter Kelson (Chaplin). Kelson, of course, is a resolute sceptic who believes there is no such thing as pure Evil. And why should he? Although orphaned as a child, he is supported by his wealthy uncle, Father James (Hall), and has a gorgeous girlfriend who doesn't seem to mind him running around with Ryder's shrewish, straggly-haired harbinger of doom. Director Kaminski's use of eerie shadows and desaturated colours helps envelop us in a world of ominous foreboding. He also borrows from the best, notably Rosemary's Baby. But unlike that other modern Polanski acolyte, M Night Shyamalan, Kaminski lacks the emotional insight and clarity that might infuse these supernatural happenings with a credible human dimension. So even as Jan Kaczmarek's textured musical score adds depth to some scary hallucinatory images, the tedious storytelling sucks the life and soul out of the characters far more effectively than Satan ever manages.
Cast and crew
Philip Baker Hall