Incarnate (2016) - In theaters now! I listened to some heavy rotation advertising for this film on the Shock Waves podcast and seeing the Blumhouse logo at the beginning of the film I understood why since they are the company that also owns the podcast and (distributes?) the movie I can see why they would push it. The early show on a Friday afternoon (4:40pm) was a quiet show. In fact I was the only one seeing the movie in the audience. Its a mixed blessing since I hate noisy rooms when watching movies but on the other hand you only have your own reactions to judge the film by. Wondering who this film is being geared towards? Maybe the previews can give an indication. Split, XXX: Return of Zander Case, Annabelle 2, Underworld: Blood Wars, Assasins Creed, Sleight, and The Belko Experiment tell me that this is geared to a young audience but that seems appropriate.
The film is definitely in the new screenwriting school of thought where the acts are clearly defined the breadcrumbs dropped and paid off later and there is a clear character arc for the main character. I say new screenwriting school, it has got to be twenty years since the screenwriting has firmed up the approach to film. Whether that be better more structured teaching of screenwriting or smarter choosing of scripts by executives there is a marked pattern in the structure of script that is quite identifiable and this film is in that category. The judgement is neither good or bad of this approach, on one hand the script is tighter and there is less extraneous material to sort through. Plot points and backstory are introduced and later developed further with just enough early information to make it work. On the other hand the structure is more predictable and less surprising, experimental and creative. Still overall it's a sign of a more professional approach that generally works more than it does not.
The story by writer Ronnie Christensen centers around Dr. Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart) who years before lost his wife and daughter in a car accident caused by a drunk driver who happened to be possessed by a demon. This demon called Maggie has been become the single focus of his life. Maggie also for some reason really wants to taunt Ember sensing his ability even though he has spent years trying to hide it. He is gifted in the magical ability to sort of sense what people are thinking. He as a doctor has developed a drug that allows him to enter the mind of a possessed individual and attempt to break the possession by getting the possessed to choose to leave the fantasy world the demon has trapped them in. He has had some connection to the Vatican but has a different approach to possession than they. Where they look through the Christian lens seeing a struggle against the corrupting evil, Ember sees the demon as a parasite which can be interrupted in the dreamworld it creates in the host.
For a film that is advertised as a new approach to a possession film it jumps through hoops to gloss over the thing it claims makes it different. Ember's thinking that possession demons are just parasite approaches their removal through science but the science is weak. A drug that allows him to enter the mind of the victim, some mumbo jumbo about auras and ions and near death experiments might put a clock on Embers encounters but overall there is not much there, in fact where it starts with the idea that he has a magical gift nullifies the science completely. Also countering the idea is the principle of choice on the part of victim, if the demon is a parasite, choosing to not have it should not be an option. All the machines and computer displays are a ruse to sell the audience but it is really still just a possession film.
The case at hand is one where a boy, actor David Mazouz has been possessed by the Maggie demon and the Church has not been able to free the boy. His Mother (Carice van Houten, Game of Thrones) will do anything to get her kid back, and the Church goes to Ember and offers him a suitcase full of money to take the job. The plots and subplots are Ember wanting to settle his personal score, one about demons wanting to infiltrate the church, and the story of a Mother wanting to save her son are all compelling enough to move the story forward even if all of it does not hold up the science premise. There is an interesting mix of concepts in this films that are reminiscent of other films. Entering another mind and manipulating from the inside Inception, passing on demon possession through touch Fallen, exorcism and science Exorcist 2 as well as the classic demon possession scenes and for the most part it works but is not particularly exciting. Still all in all the film works for what it is. The beginning, middle and end are well structured and everything setup early is paid off. Even the final little twist where they flip the expectation around saving Ember is well done. I have this horrible aversions to scenes where someone gets brought back from the dead and the scene in the ambulance where this happens to Ember had me writing notes "Damn it! Fucking happy fucking ending, Fuck!" but the twist pulled me out of this rage and that was appreciated. It at least gave a real reason to have Catalina Sandino Moreno (besides being incredibly talented and beautiful) in the film since her role as church liaison was a bit weak.
I have a feeling that it will not pull very big numbers at the box office mostly because in the end we have all seen this film before. Sure it has some newer ideas not used normally with this kind of film but it misses key features we want in a movie about possession. The first is we don't care about the victim he literally has one scene before possessed and then all of his backstory is framed through the experiences of his mother or father. Next by taking the religion out of the story the imperative for his soul is blunted, he does not seem like the imperiled one instead that is shifted to Ember who after the accident is in a wheelchair and he is the soul at risk. In fact the best scene in the film was when he goes back to his friend, Felix (Tomas Arana) to find him possessed by a demon. The struggle of a handicapped man against a walking demon was well executed by Director Brad Peyton but much of the rest of the conflict with the demon Maggie was dull taking place in the victims fantasy. Playing off this idea the last failure is that this movie is really not scary, the just mentions scene and the first possession scene are good but most of the movie is about dropping breadcrumbs and back story but not frightening. I wanted more of a nervous growing dread but did not get that. Still its well structured and there is enough to reluctantly recommend this film to others. I left it feeling like I was entertained even though it did not knock my socks off.
As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter
is dedicated to following and being followed by
people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them
follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the
community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people
involved in it. I am now following over 239 people while the
followers is only 35 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow
just anyone back. :)