Film Review: Incarnate

Where's a real exorcist when you need one?
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As he proved most recently in Bleed for This and Sully, Aaron Eckhart is far too talented to waste his energy on dreck. Unfortunately, the actor doesn’t yet seem to have absorbed the lesson, judging by his starring role in the latest low-budget effort from the prolific Blumhouse production company. Despite the actor giving it his all in this B-movie horror film, yet another in a never-ending series of demonic-possession-themed, Exorcist knockoffs, Incarnate, much like its central character at key moments, barely seems to have a pulse.

Eckhart plays the wheelchair-bound Dr. Seth Ember, whose tragic past we glean from his scruffy hair, unkempt beard and generally pissed-off demeanor. Ember’s vocation consists of expelling nasty demons from possessed individuals, only he’s not religious and disdains the label “exorcist.” He instead refers to the services he provides, with the help of two young, hipster assistants (Emily Jackson and Keir O’Donnell), as “evictions.”

His latest client, a “really hot” Vatican representative (Catalina Sandino Moreno), shows up bearing a briefcase full of cash (demonstrating that the Church’s tax-exempt status should perhaps be reexamined). It seems that an 11-year-old boy, Cameron (David Mazouz), has been possessed by an “arch demon” that Ember has battled in the past. He refers to her as “Maggie,” which happens to be the name of the drunk driver who killed his wife and young son in a car crash.

The chief novelty of Ronnie Christensen’s screenplay is its hero’s particular method of plying his trade, which involves entering into a near-death state and, with the clock ticking, inhabiting the minds of the possessed victims. These sequences take place in an imaginary universe, where Ember is fully ambulatory, clean-shaven and handsome. His chief method of battling the forces of darkness consists, essentially, of duking it out.

Director Brad Peyton (San Andreas), keeping the proceedings as dark and murky as possible in order to reduce the special-effects budget, fails to create suspense from the convoluted proceedings. Despite the characters’ constant attempts at explication, it’s hard to tell exactly what the hell is going on much of the time. Nor does the clichéd dialogue help, with Cameron gleefully telling his would-be evictor, “Let the games begin,” and Ember sagely advising the young boy’s mother (Carice van Houten), “I’d lock this door if I were you.”

The sort of cheesy horror film in which demonic possession is signaled by little more than the actors suddenly sporting black contact lenses, Incarnate won’t be possessing theatre screens for very long.--The Hollywood Reporter

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