Even with a runtime of only 91 minutes, this movie is utterly painful to sit through. Incarnate is the latest film from Blumhouse Productions, the masterminds behind many of the most profitable horror films and franchises of the last decade. Blumhouse has had a big part in reviving the modern horror genre with original entries like Paranormal Activity (2007), Sinister (2012), and Oculus (2013). Unfortunately, in amongst these gems are heaps of garbage like Ouija (2014), The Lazarus Effect (2015), The Boy Next Door (2015), and now, Incarnate.
The plot is essentially the climax of Insidious stretched out into a feature length film. Cameron (David Mazouz) is an 11-year-old boy who becomes possessed by an extremely powerful demon that transferred to him from a homeless woman who entered the apartment in which he lives with his mother. Dr. Ember (Aaron Eckhart) is a haggard, wheelchair-ridden exorcist-of-sorts who rids hosts of parasitic demons by entering their minds and ‘evicting’ the evil entity. Ember gets called in by a representative from the Vatican to expel the demon from within the boy. At first he vehemently refuses anything to do with the Church or their exorcisms, as his methods are scientific rather than religious. The doctor only agrees to sign on when he finds out that the demon possessing the boy is Maggie, an ‘arch-demon’ who has specific significance to Ember.
Writer Ronnie Christensen’s script is nothing but convoluted, from the uncoordinated transitions between reality and the subconscious realm, to the multiple unnecessary and undeveloped characters crowded around, watching the film unfold. The ‘science’ behind the possessions and Ember’s procedures is also poorly written and nonsensical, despite multiple blatantly expositional instances of overly in-depth explanations. Christensen’s story plays out with excruciatingly transparent plot devices and one scene (along with another undeveloped character) that’s so obviously inserted with the sole purpose of setting up the film’s ending. Peppered in throughout are cringeworthy nods and ripped-off elements from The Exorcist (1973), Inception (2010), and Poltergeist (1982). Christensen’s writing paired with the expertise of director Brad Peyton, known for Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (2010) and San Andreas (2015), makes for an explosively bad combination.
Although I expected the worst going into it, I gave this movie the benefit of the doubt from the beginning. For the first five minutes I thought there was still potential for a halfway decent film, but Incarnate quickly revealed what was to come and I knew it was going to be a rough ride. Devoid of any scares or suspense, this movie plays out more like a ‘cheap thrill’ brand of action movie, featuring a laughable amount of Aaron Eckhart punching people in the face. Not to mention that Incarnate’s cinematography looks more like a student film than a multi-million dollar blockbuster. In summary, you know a horror film is gonna be bad when the opening titles are set to Sail by AWOLNATION. Even if you can see it for free, this movie’s not worth your time.