It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Blumhouse Productions is a filmmaking entity that first hit it big in 2009 with the release of “Paranormal Activity,” the out-of-nowhere horror hit that tapped into our inexplicable appetite for watching camcorder footage of two oafs being spooked by weird noises in their suburban home. Flush from the success of that film and its inevitable string of sequels, the company began an ambitious program of cranking out a large number of low-budget genre items in the hopes of hitting it big again, and found success with the likes of “The Gift,” “The Visit” and the “Purge” and “Insidious” franchises. However, there have been a number of failures as well (“The Green Inferno” and “The Darkness”), many Blumhouse films not even deemed worthy of a theatrical release and instead went straight-to-video.
Having seen a number of those films, I can easily understand why they were deemed unworthy of getting an actual theatrical distribution. But what I can't begin to fathom is why they decided that their latest effort, the dunderheaded demonic possession saga “Incarnate,” deserved just such a release. This film seems to have been designed to defeat even the most meager expectations one might have towards a cheapo “Exorcist” knockoff, released on one of the slowest moviegoing weekends of the year and with barely any warning.
That said, you don’t want to mention the “E” word around Dr. Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart). While he has the power to rid people who are possessed by demons, he disdains organized religion as a whole and instead refers to what he does as, if I recall correctly, the eviction of parasitical entities. With the aid of his two hipster assistants, he accomplishes this by lowering his heart rate so he can be as close to death as possible. From that point, he can enter the possessee’s subconscious dream state and convince them that what think they are experiencing is all a lie. He is driven to do all of this in the hopes of one day tracking down and destroying one especially all-powerful demon, known to him as Maggie, who caused the car accident that killed his wife and son and left him in a wheelchair. To be fair, I am probably not explaining this very well but to be honest, neither does the movie.
One day, a representative from the Vatican (Catalina Sandino Moreno) shows up with a suitcase full of money in order to buy his help. An 11-year-old boy (David Mazouz) who has been possessed by a demon and will die in roughly three days otherwise. At first, Ember isn’t interested at all but when she mentions that the demon in question may in fact be the elusive Maggie, he eventually agrees in the hopes that he can get his revenge. While the Vatican observer and the boy’s mother (Carice van Houten) look on, Ember and his team begin their work and the early rounds are all with Maggie—his first contact is a total failure and his attempt to break Maggie’s hold by bringing in the kid’s drunken, abusive and estranged father likewise does not go off quite as planned (unless the plan was to kill off an otherwise completely disposable character to create the illusion that something of interest has happened). Luckily, for his final confrontation with Maggie, Ember has something up his sleeve—a serum derived from the blood of another possessed person that will provide just enough clarity within the dream world to help him somehow defeat the demon once and for all.
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