Movie Review: ‘INCARNATE’ chokes on its own evil

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

INCARNATE
Rated PG-13, 91 min.
Director: Brad Peyton
Cast: Aaron EckhartDavid MazouzCarice van HoutenCatalina Sandino MorenoEmjay AnthonyMatt Nable and Keir O’Donnell

Sometimes, there are factors in a preview/advertisement that make us want to take in a movie against our better judgment. It could be the genre, the actor/actress, or just a chance at escaping reality to have the ol’ mind numbed. There can be successes, but more often than not, we should’ve gone with our gut.

Enter INCARNATE.

Is it a genre the audience can enjoy? Sure, a low-key horror flick is always good entertainment. Does this particular movie have an actor everyone can get behind? Of course, who doesn’t like Aaron Eckhart, the man who stole the show in THE DARK KNIGHT?! (Yeah, I said it) These factors, along with that exorcism/creepy kid formula, have a couple of those ingredients to make for a solid time at the multiplex.

Actually, the movie starts out with some intrigue. Becoming something of a Blumhouse calling card is the pre-title sequence that ends with the possession. Then we’re introduced to Dr. Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart), who is in the midst of pulling a possessed man out of a mental fugue induced by the entity. Once the man is freed, we are back in the real world, where Dr. Ember is paralyzed. He had been crippled in a car crash, his wife and son killed by a woman possessed by an entity.

INCARNATE then delves into its own path in the exorcism subgenre. Ember and his team are visited by the Vatican to get rid of something possessing young Cameron (David Masouz). You start to get the feeling that the title of “doctor” comes from something that involves psychology. He explains that they are not demons but parasites, leeching off the possessed person’s energy. They trap them in this fugue state, providing them with the impression of their biggest desire coming true. Ember is reluctant to work with the Vatican, but guess who is attached to Cameron?

The second and third acts then become a battle between Ember and “Maggie,” the name they use to refer to the parasite because that was the name of the main host. This is where the world-building goes from intriguing to boring. For some reason, all parasites know each other, and answer to Maggie. Furthermore, it seems like the writers just gave up any creativity and used a bunch of other cop-outs that every fan of horror has seen before.

Directed by Brad Peyton (SAN ANDREAS), the worst part about INCARNATE is that it wastes an interesting leading character and becomes its own enemy. What looked to be a shot in the arm of a tired subgenre just decided to give up and not serve any purpose. They try to save it with a twist you can see coming a mile away, and they rely heavily on background soundtrack that becomes monotonous and tiresome.

The definition of the word “incarnate” is a spirit embodied in the flesh, but INCARNATE just turns out to be redundant in essence.

INCARNATE is now playing nationwide.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.