Movie Review: ‘Incarnate’s’ highlights include a devil named Maggie and not much else
I wish I was present for the elevator pitch of “Incarnate” because I’m not sure if the concept was pitched to anybody. At least in any traditional sense.
I picture a low-level Blumhouse executive making his or her way to work and suddenly being accosted by a man wearing nothing but a filthy Hard Rock Cafe bomber jacket and one of those paper slipper things you sometimes have to wear at hospitals.
“Last night when you went to sleep, I jumped into your mind and fought the devil, Jack,” the man yells. “I shoved a crucifix down its throat and then we jumped out of a tiny green window and now you’re my wife,” the man added shortly before bursting into tears. From there, the Blumhouse exec runs off shaken but inspired. After Aaron Eckhart is reminded that the Blumhouse exec still has the negatives, “Incarnate” is made and quietly dumped into theaters during the post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas lull, fulfilling everyone’s most disappointing holiday wishes.
Understand, when your film is basically “The Exorcist” crossed with “Inception,” it’s never going to be a good movie. Especially when your movie is shot on a budget less than a third of either of those films’ budgets. But being a bad movie doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and for the first 15 minutes of “Incarnate’s” mercifully brief 87-minute running time, “Incarnate” is kind of fun. The film opens with a growling homeless woman who (off-screen, apparently) jumps five stories- straight in the air – and somehow lands inside the locked apartment of David Mazouz (young Bruce Wayne on “Gotham”). A scuffle breaks out that ends with the teenaged, but still very childlike, Mazouz breaking the woman’s neck as his eyes glow ominously.
So far, so stupid but things get even dumber when Aaron Eckhart a night club/ red-tinted Serbian murder factory where clocks can’t work and the only way to escape is by remembering your favorite color. But watch out because everybody’s pupils just got very big. Pretty stupid, right? Not so fast, “Incarnate” hasn’t even begun to stupid. You see, according to this film, souls are like Wifi and this is very attractive to demons with terrifying names, like Maggie, for some reason. So, much like those assholes who linger around Starbucks with their laptops for hours on end, devil Maggies jump inside your brain, feeding off your life force as she checks her e-mails. As Maggie is doing this, she tricks you into living out your greatest fantasies such as hanging around a crowded nightclub, visiting a carnival at night or leaving a hospital.
Luckily, Eckhart, who is confined to a wheelchair and talks like he’s doing a bad impression of Batman, is on hand to fall asleep in front of possessed people so he can enter their brains, convince them to think of a window and then push them out of said window. This somehow kills demons named Maggie. Kind of.
This stupidity is exhilarating at first, but “Incarnate’s” dense mythology and tortured storytelling makes it feel like watching a 6-year-old child improvise a story on the spot. It’s cute at first but the more the kid talks, the less coherent they become. Filled with insane techno-babble and the kind of dimwitted pseudo-science that reduce Neil DeGrasse Tyson into a babbling husk, “Incarnate” never stops dumping helpings of exposition in our laps and yet it never starts making sense. I get why the paralyzed Eckhart’s projected image would be walking inside people’s brains. But why is his voice different? His hair short and clean or why he insists on dressing like a divorced Dad from 2006 who just got into Dane Cook?
Directed by Brad Peyton, the same work-for-hire hack that gave us “San Andreas” and “Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” “Incarnate” is at least a step up from his previous efforts.
Instead of being unwatchable it’s watchable but only in the sense that something is watchable if it’s on in the background and you happen to be performing chores in another room. In essence, it’s just elaborate white noise.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
Starring: Carice van Houten, Aaron Eckhart, David Mazouz
Director: Brad Peyton
Weekender Rating: W
Length: 91 minutes