Directed by Chuck Russell. Starring Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Rufus Sewell, Ian Holm, Angela Bettis, Holliston Coleman and Christina Ricci.

Bless The Child is a supernatural thriller from the producer of The Omen. Like that film, this is also about a special child, a little girl called Cody (Holliston Coleman) whose odd behaviour is initially diagnosed as a mild form of autism. Abandoned by her feckless, strung-out mother, Jenna (Angela Bettis) she is looked after by her loving aunt Maggie played by Kim Basinger. Unlike Damien, however, Cody is on the side of the angels. This fact does not escape a religious cult controlled by Cody's new stepfather, the hypnotic and bug-eyed Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell). Several children sharing Cody's birthdate have been ritualistically murdered and, when Cody is abducted by Stark, Maggie is joined by FBI agent John Travis (Jimmy Smits) in a race against time to find her before the powers of evil succeed in turning her to do their will - or kill her.

Although Bless the Child has its moments - and a few are genuinely heart stopping - it fails to consistently maintain either suspense or thrills. Its heavy reliance on clichés tends to make you laugh when you should be trembling and policemen should start realising that there is no point in telling anxious fathers/siblings/aunts to wait in the car as they prepare to attack the sinister house where their loved one is held. Pointless cameos from Ian Holm, as a priest and occult expert, and Christina Ricci, a drug-addict fleeing the cult, serve little purpose, especially when they're forced to spout more of the unconvincing and often laughable dialogue. Slow and predictable, you're more likely to feel like cursing the child after two hours spent in this company.

Caroline Hennessy