‘Incarnate’ Review: Oh God, Aaron Eckhart, What Happened To You?
A new horror movie is out today. It is called Incarnate. It received very little marketing, did not screen for press, and is being released by horror outfit Blumhouse, the philosophy of which is “Put out a ton of movies every year. Most of them are bad and make no money, but the budgets are so small that if even one or two of them make bank, we can fund all the rest.”
As you may be able to guess, this movie is bad. So bad. Atrocious. But not in an interesting way. Just a completely pointless movie all-around.
Often, with bad movies, you can at least tell what the director was going for: “Oh, he wanted this to be a wacky actioner/an earnest, heartfelt romance/a philosophically-minded war movie.” They don’t get there, but you can see the seeds of an attempt at something original. With Incarnate, honestly, I don’t even know what movie director Brad Peyton (San Andreas, which wasn’t great but at least had The Rock) thought he was making. Surely he can’t have sat down with his producers and said: “Guys. Guys. I have an idea… wait for it… I’m going to make the most generic and scare-less exorcism movie that’s ever been put on the big screen.”
Because that’s what we got.
Aaron Eckhart plays Seth Ember (yes, his last name is “Ember”), an unkempt, bitter, washout (he swills booze out of a flask so you know he’s Damaged) who’s able to go inside the minds of possessed people and force their demons out of them. (It’s called “evicting,” not “exorcising,” he explains, because he’s doing it from the inside. Shut the fuck up, hipster dipstick. You’re an exorcist.) At the top of Ember’s shit list is a demon he calls “Maggie,” who was responsible for the car accident that killed his wife and son—tragic backstory involving fridged woman: CHECK—and left him wheelchair-bound. Maggie pops up again in the person of an adorable 11-year-old boy named Cameron (David Mazouz), whose mother is played by Game of Thrones’s Carice van Houten. Cameron is the spitting image of Ember’s late son, who was 11 when he died. Subtle, this movie ain’t.
Incidentally, David Mazouz also did the whole creepy kid thing in another shitty Blumhouse release from earlier this year, The Darkness, aka Autism Makes You Creepy And Also Ancient Indian Magicks. Casting directors are going to give this kid a complex.
So Aaron Eckhart has to save this kid and take Maggie out, and—oh God, it’s just the most appallingly generic nonsense. There’s the distorted demon voice and the black demon eyes and the creepy carnival. (Why yes, there is a house of mirrors, why did you ask?) Ember has two punk garb-clad assistants—that’s their whole personality, by the way: “are dressed like punks, I guess”—who are there exclusively to provide exposition. Nothing’s scary, because nothing happens that you don’t see coming. The foreshadowing is clunky, obvious, and constant—Ember’s Vatican liaison (Catalina Sandino Moreno) tells him demons like to possess “weak” people like the elderly, the young, and the ill, and GOLLY GEE WHO DO YOU THINK MAGGIE ENDS UP POSSESSING, COULD IT BE THE GUY IN THE WHEELCHAIR?
On top of that, this movie takes itself way too seriously. It’s all overly portentous score and Super Dramatic zoom-in on things that actually don’t matter, like the number of the apartment Cameron and his mom live in. (Okay?!) There are moments of unintentional comedy, like Ember’s introduction, where his dream self strides into a nightclub all quasi-badass with AWOLNATION’s “Sail” (SAAAAAIL!) blaring in the background. But those moments are few and far between: this movie is a dull sandwich with a glass of milk on the side.
And Eckhart is bizarre in this, all GRARRRGH I’M SO SERIOUS THE BATVOICE WORKED FOR CHRISTIAN BALE SO I GUESS I’LL GIVE IT SHOT and completely lacking in the charisma I know he has. But his ~*~intense overacting~*~ isn’t fun, like, say, Keanu Reeves in John Wick. Eckhart’s performance doesn’t read as self-aware so much as “I am really fucking bored right now, and if I up the gravel factor to 11 it means I don’t have to act.” To be fair, the script does saddle him with clunkers like… wait, sorry, gotta prepare… *gargles a sippy cup full of razor blades*… ahem…. “Wake up, buddy. We’re in your head” and “When I was 26, I discovered when I sleep, I can go into the minds of the possessed.” I’d check out, too.
The suck doesn’t end there. Look, I am beyond the point of caring about spoiling the ends of shitty horror movies that no one’s ever going to see. So fuck it, we’re talking about the dumb-as-rocks twist. Scroll past the line of gifs from Aaron Eckhart movies that are actually good.
I couldn’t find a gif of him in Sully, but he’s fine. It’s fine.
That last one is from Meet Bill, but the gif is too appropriate not to use here.
Ember goes into Cameron’s mind and manages to free him from Maggie’s possession. In the process, he gets possessed himself. He anticipated that this would probably happen, so he planned ahead by equipping himself with a sort of Chekov’s serum that will give him ten seconds of lucidity in which to kill himself. That would kill the demon, too. In fact, the only ways demons can be killed is by
exorcising evicting EXORCISING them or killing their hosts before they’re able to transfer to someone else, which in Maggie’s case happens through physical contact. Makes it a little weird that no one wears gloves, ties Cameron’s hands so he can’t grab at people, or seems to give a single solitary fuck about being in touching range, but whatever, this movie is stupid.
Ember’s planning extended to getting the serum and instructing his assistants to inject him with it, but it didn’t extended to bringing a weapon to kill himself with… because he’s an idiot. So he drags himself over to the window and pitches himself out, only he’s on the third floor, so he’s only severely injured. He and Vatican Lady have a sweet moment in the ambulance when it looks like he might survive, after all. Yay! the musical cues tell us. He defeated the demon AND he might not die! Everything is happy and heroic! Vatican Lady is so overcome with emotion that she tenderly holds his hand WHICH GETS HER POSSESSED BY THE DEMON BECAUSE OF COURSE THE DEMON’S NOT GONE YET BECAUSE AARON ECKHART DIDN’T DIE, THE MOVIE T O L D US THE RULES LIKE 15 MINUTES AGO, WHAT THE FU— .
I’m back, I’m back. I’m better.
So anyway. The movie ends with Ember dying and Vatican Lady’s eyes flashing with demon power, in some sort of ooh scary gasp zinger that’s neither scary nor a zinger. Good luck with getting the greenlight on that sequel you were clearly leaving room for, assholes. I hope you all make better choices in the future.
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