A scientist named Dr. Ember discovers he has the ability to enter the minds of individuals who are possessed. After the loss of his family, Ember decides to use his ability to evict the parasitic entities out of the possessed in hopes of finding the one that took his family from him. When a young boy becomes possessed his single mother reaches out to the church for help. When the church realizes this is more than they can handle, and it may be the entity Ember is looking for, they call him in for help. He undergoes is largest battle, all within the mind of a child.
In all honesty, I had very low expectations going into this film. I was concerned that it was going to essentially be a repeat of The Darkness which was made by the same production company, stars the same child actor, and has one well known actor in it. For the most part, Incarnate exceeds my expectations. What I enjoy about this film is that it approaches possession from a more scientific standpoint. What takes hold of the child isn’t a demon, but more of a parasitic thing that feeds off of his energy. It gives a fresh take to a classic possession film that tickles my science-minded fancy. The filmmakers also do an excellent job of explaining the scientific aspects in a way that feels natural. It doesn’t sound like the characters are talking about it for the sake of audience understanding.
There are some aspects of this story that I don’t enjoy as much. One thing that I can’t get over is the motivation behind why the demon is fixated on Ember. Obviously Ember wants to find the demon because the demon killed his wife and son, but I don’t understand why the demon wants to ruin Ember’s life. It is implied that the demon can sense Ember’s power, which would lead one to believe that the demon wants him dead so Ember can’t continue to evict demons. The issue with this theory is that there are many others like Ember, yet the demon doesn’t seem to care about anyone else. Another similar thing that isn’t explored enough is the odd fact that the possessed boy and his mother look eerily similar to Ember’s deceased wife and son. My initial though is that this was a purposeful casting choice. Maybe the demon chooses the lookalikes in order to torture Ember that much more. At no point are the physical similarities brought up, so it is hard to determine if it is part of the plot or just coincidence. Beyond those two aspects I am also still on the fence about the ending for this film. I won’t go into detail, but it feels like the filmmakers phoned it in bit.
Earlier I made a comparison between Incarnate and The Darkness, one of the similarities being that it had one major actor in it that audiences would easily recognize. For The Darkness that actor was Kevin Bacon, but even he couldn’t save that film. Incarnate’s top billing actor is Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Olympus Has Fallen) as Dr. Ember. Eckhart does an excellent job of portraying men who have been damaged by some kind of heartbreak. This film is no different. He is a perfect blend of tortured and determined. While the other performances in this film are fine, Eckhart is definitely the driving force that makes audiences pay attention.
One thing that this film does that I approve of is subtle effects. Those who are possessed can only be separated from those who aren’t by their somewhat sickly look and red eyes. Even in the dream world the only physical characteristic that allows you to discern demons from others are black eyes. There is only one scene where you get an idea of what a demon looks like outside of its human form, but the filmmakers clearly made a conscious decision not to show the audience everything. In an age where horror films tend to show too much, making the situations and evil beings much less terrifying, this is a very wise move.
While Incarnate exceeds many of my expectations, there are still things that fall a bit short of what could be a near perfect reinvention of a possession film. The scientific aspects and the acting are definitely the highlights. I also commend the filmmakers for not showing the full monty when it comes to the demons. If there was just a bit more exploration into why the demon wants Ember and why the mother and son Ember is helping look so much like his dead family, this movie would be a home run. As it is, I’m left with too many questions that I need answered. Either way I would say this is worth a watch because it is exciting and brings something new to the table.
OVERALL RATING: 7/10