Following is Westport News film critic Susan Granger's review of the new movie, "Deliver Us From Evil:"
In the 2010 prologue, set in Iraq, three American soldiers stumble upon an entrance to a dimly lit, spooky, subterranean chamber, obviously a religious site, littered with human skulls. Subsequently, Griggs (Scott Johnsen), Jimmy (Chris Coy) and Santino (Sean Harris) are beset by series of horrific, seemingly senseless crimes.
Four years later, that mysterious incident piques the interest of NYPD Sgt. Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana), who has been neglecting his pregnant wife Jen (Olivia Munn) and soccer-loving daughter Christina (Lulu Wilson) in his dogged pursuit of wrongdoing in the South Bronx. His laid-back partner Butler (Joel McHale) is the kind of reckless "adrenaline junkie" who likes stirring up trouble by wearing a Boston Red Sox cap in Yankee territory.
Then there's the chain-smoking, whiskey-drinking Jesuit priest, Joe Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), who gradually convinces Sarchie, a lapsed Catholic, that there may be supernatural forces involved in three separate crimes, all tangentially connected to Griggs, Jimmy and, specifically, Santino. To make things worse, they discover that a specific incantation -- in Latin and Persian -- invites a demon to enter the human world, and that Sarchie's family is in imminent danger.
Inevitably, this leads to a surprisingly long, formulaic exorcism scene at the police station.
Once again, Bana ("Lone Survivor) proves a strong protagonist, fighting to the death atop an old player piano. But it's curious that the source material, "Beware the Night" by the real Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool, shows how, as an occult/paranormal investigator, Sarchie came to believe that some of these criminals were, indeed, possessed, while screenwriter/director Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose," "Sinister") and his co-writer Paul Harris Boardman depict Sarchie as a skeptic.
Unfortunately, any connection between post-traumatic stress syndrome and demonic possession is glossed over.
So, in addition to cliche-riddled dialogue, there are numerous grisly, gory scenes, one that serves as warning never, ever to visit the Bronx Zoo at night.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Deliver Us From Evil" is a foul 4, filled with depravity.