The new chiller Deliver Us from Evil is now in cinemas. John Byrne finds out whether horror's hit-rate has improved. 

It's very easy to put the boot in on horror films and much more difficult to make a good one. Ever since the Scary Movie franchise pretty much took the genre and drowned it in a sea of irony, it's proven quite a task to get the mojo back. Horror films are like latter day westerns, a genre that parodied itself almost out of existence in the 1960s.

So, here we go with Deliver Us from Evil. Based on the book Beware the Night by former NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie, who's now a demonologist, it tells the story of the experiences that led him from tracking down criminals around the Bronx to assisting priests in exorcisms.

Australian actor Eric Bana plays Sarchie who, along with his partner Butler (Joel McHale, offering some light relief for the most part), come across a curious situation when a mother is spotted throwing her young child into a moat by a lions' den in the Bronx Zoo. That and other crimes are tied to three US soldiers who were previously caught up in something odd while on duty in Iraq.

At home, Sarchie is slowly unravelling as his wife (Olivia Munn) and young daughter begin to notice a change in him – and those cuddly toys start to look menacing. Things begin to get very Linda Blair when Édgar Ramírez, a spirit-chasing, chain-smoking priest, appears.

There are shades of other horror movies here, from The Shining to The Exorcist but, despite some flaws – The Doors being a musical portal to 'the other side' is just a cheesy step too far for me – I enjoyed it.

I've certainly seen worse films (Avatar, for example) being raved about, and Deliver Us from Evil's lack of originality is probably its only real drawback. As if that ever mattered in showbiz.