Christensen previously wrote Passengers (from 2008— not the Chris Pratt/Jennifer Lawrence one), Locked In and Dark Tide, none of which I've ever heard of.
Peyton previously directed Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas. Welp, as least his work's consistent.
Take The Exorcist (or pretty much any demonic possession movie from the past forty years), cross it with Inception and you'll have a pretty good idea what this movie's like. It also contains bits & pieces from a dozen other horror films, as if the writer was sampling a cinematic buffet.
The movie was actually filmed back in 2013, but wasn't released until December of 2016. It's always a bad, bad sign whenever a movie's shelved for any length of time. And so it is with Incarnate. It's cheap, poorly written and filmed, and even though it clocks in at ninety one minutes, it feels like it's three hours long.
The premise of the film— a psychic exterminator who enters the elaborate worlds inside people's minds and rids them of the demons plaguing them— is somewhat intriguing. With a more coherent script, a competent director, a higher budget and a better cast, it could have made a decent little film.
If, for some insane reason, you have a desire to see this movie, you're most likely out of luck. It was only out for a week around here, and disappeared from every cineplex in the city immediately after I saw it. In fact I'm starting to wonder if I really did see it, or if it was a particularly lame dream I had.
SPOILERS, I GUESS!
We begin with our hero, Seth Ember (played by Aaron Eckhart), an "incarnate" who can enter the minds of people who've been possessed by demons and, as he puts it, evict them.
Ember is wheelchair-bound, ever since he was involved in a car accident that killed his wife and young son. Whenever he enters another person's mind though, his "supernatural self" can walk and move normally. Ember enters the mind of a possessed man, which looks like a glitzy nightclub filled with beautiful women who fawn all over him. Naturally the man doesn't want to leave this swanky setup, but Ember convinces him that none of it's real, and talks him into jumping out an imaginary window (!) to end the demon's hold on him.
It's patently obvious that this entire sequence exists just to show us how Ember's powers work.
Ember wakes up in the real world, and his support team (who I think are named Ilsa and Oliver) ask if the demon he just evicted was "Maggie." Ember looks disappointed and says no. Apparently there's a demon named Maggie out there, who has a real grudge against Ember (for reasons that are never quite clear). Years ago Maggie possessed a drunk driver, causing her to slam into car into Ember's, paralyzing him and killing his family.
Meanwhile, single mom Lindsay (no last names, please) and her young son Cameron come home to their apartment. Cameron sees a scary homeless woman in the alley, and hurries into the house. That night, Cameron hears a noise in the kitchen. He gets up to investigate, and is attacked by the scary homeless woman.
As it turns out, the woman is possessed by a demon, which jumps into Cameron's body. He then snaps the homeless woman's neck (!).
Ember receives a visit from Camilla, a distractingly hot representative of the Catholic Church. She want's Ember to investigate Cameron, to see if he's really possessed or not. Naturally he refuses at first, as he wants nothing to do with the Church (and to drag out the run time, but eventually agrees.
Ember contacts Cameron's estranged dad Dan, and convinces him to help. Dan is estranged because he accidentally broke Cameron's arm, which I'm sure isn't supposed to remind us of The Shining. Dan enters Cameron's room and tries to talk him out of his possessed head, or something. Suddenly Cameron uses demon magic to levitate Dan and kill him.
Feeling he has no other choice, Ember reenters Cameron's mind, knowing full well that in his weakened state, he'll likely die. He convinces Cameron to leave his fantasy world and come with him. Maggie doesn't take kindly to this, and pursues. Ember gets Cameron to create a window and jump through it. He follows a second later, escaping Maggie's clutches.
Out in the real world, everyone celebrates as Cameron's now back to normal. Since the movie's still got another fifteen minutes to go, the audience knows better. Sure enough, Ember realizes that none of this is real, and he's now inside his own mind (I think?) with Maggie. She begins levitating him as she sucks the life force from him or something. It's all very vague.
Ember takes a special poison he got from a priest earlier in the film (don't ask, just go with it), that pulls him out of his dream world for a few seconds. He then jumps out a real window (not a dream one) to free himself, and lands on the street several stories below.
On the street, everyone rushes up to help Ember, but Ilsa warns them not to touch him, in case the demon's still inside him. An ambulance arrives and takes Ember to the hospital. Camilla clasps his hand, begging him to hold on just a little longer. Ember smiles, knowing he's finally vanquished Maggie, and promptly dies. Pan up to Camilla, whose eyes are now glowing with an evil, supernatural light.
• All through the movie, Ember warns everyone not to let Cameron touch them, as the demon spreads by physical contact (like conjunctivitis, I guess).
Oddly enough, Cameron's never restrained throughout the film. Every time we see him, he's simply sitting on the floor in the middle of an empty room. Whenever Ember enters Cameron's mind, the wheelchair-bound psychic sits about five feet in front of him. All Cameron would have to do is lean forward slightly and touch Ember, transferring the demon to him. Of course he never does so, for plot reasons.
In a similar vein, at the end of the movie Ember jumps out a window to save himself. Ilsa warns everyone not to touch him, and then she immediately starts pawing at him herself. Is she immune to body-jumping demons?
• Take another look at the poster for this film. Man, talk about shoving your religion down someone's throat!
• One nice touch— in the real world, Ember is paralyzed from the waist down and has long, scraggly hair and looks extremely disheveled. Whenever he enters the world inside someone's mind though, he can walk, and is neat and clean shaven— a perfectly realized version of himself.
• When Aaron Eckhart's in full grizzled mode, he looks a lot like Boromir. If any casting director out there needs someone to play Sean Bean's brother, Eckhart's your man.
• Whenever Ember enters a person's mind, his support team stands by in the real world, wringing their hands as they worriedly glance at the readouts on various monitors.
They spout reams of technobabble relating to Ember's physical condition, which is supposed to make the audience worry about him. Unfortunately the pseudoscience is all completely meaningless, so we just have to take their word that something bad's happening.
• Apparently the police exist in the universe of this film, but they don't actually do anything.
Possessed Cameron outright murders two people in his home, but is never placed into custody or faces any charges. Later Ember jumps out the window of this same home, and there doesn't seem to be any investigation whatsoever.
Are the cops in this world really that incompetent? Or is crime so rampant that three more bodies isn't a big deal to them?
Or, could it be that Camilla, the Catholic Church representative, is so powerful that she's able to cover up the deaths and tell the cops to get lost?
• Ember isn't interested in taking Cameron's case until he visits him and Lindsay and sees the two of them. It's blatantly obvious that he changes him mind because Cameron and Lindsay remind him of his own deceased family.
I guess the director was afraid it wasn't obvious enough though, because when we see a flashback to the crash which injured Ember and killed his wife and child, they look EXACTLY like Lindsay and Cameron. In fact they look so much like them, for a few seconds I thought they were using the same actors for both parts.
• At the end of the movie, Ember's being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. His heart stops, and of course the paramedics begin shocking his chest with a defibrillator.
Sigh… this is an old, old song here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld, but once again— this is not how defibrillators work! You can't shock a stopped heart back to life!
There's probably an interesting concept at the center of Incarnate, but it's buried under an avalanche of poor writing and even poorer direction. Skip it and watch The Exorcist again instead. I give it a D+.