“I don’t compel these ‘entities’ from the outside, I evict them from the inside,” says scientist Dr. Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart), describing unorthodox “evictions” of what he calls “parasites.” Vatican representative (Catalina Sandino Moreno), disagrees, calling them “demons.” But Ember’s not an exorcist: “I don’t believe what I do belongs to any religion.” When Ember sleeps, he enters dreams of possessed persons and, waking them, destroys parasitic demonic power. It’s dangerous, assistant Oliver (Keir O’Donnell), says: “It’ll be the end of you. Watch it, or you’re going to get stuck in there.” If all this doesn’t make much sense, don’t worry. The movie doesn’t make much sense either.
Can Dr. Ember evict demon “Maggie” (his name for her) from 11-year old Cameron (David Mazouz)? Does Cameron’s dissolute father Dan (Matt Nable) help? Why is Felix (Tomas Arana), Ember’s mentor, acting strangely? Are these important questions to you? If so, see “Incarnate.” Otherwise, skip it.
As resolutely secular Dr. Seth Ember, Aaron Eckhart works hard to generate a bit of energy in this otherwise lackluster enterprise. “There are fates worse than death,” he says passionately, “but sometimes, you have to choose death.” Alas, Eckhart’s efforts are largely wasted. Young David Mazouz is taciturn Cameron; Mark Steger voices Cameron’s one-note demon. Emily Jackson and Keir O’Donnell play Ember’s assistants, Riley and Oliver, whose computer expertise helps us follow Ember into other people’s dreams.
Also in the cast are Carice van Houten as Cameron’s distraught mother and Catalina Sandino Moreno as a nameless Vatican representative who, for reasons unexplained, offers Ember a briefcase full of money. Matt Nable is Cam’s absent father Dan. Tomas Arana is Ember’s guide into the paranormal.
“Incarnate” is marketed as a horror/thriller flick. You could fool me. It’s neither scary nor thrilling. What B-movie director Brad Peyton — “San Andreas” (2015), “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” (2010) — and writer Ronnie Christensen — “Dark Tide” (2012) — give us is a shameless knock-off of William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” (1973). “Your son’s in trouble,” says Ember to Cam’s father. “I need you to come with me.” Dan agrees, but only, he says, if there’s no head-turning or green projectile vomit. Peyton and Christensen also borrow — ineptly — from “Inception” (2010), Christopher Nolan’s smart epic about dream-sharing. “Incarnate” may take from the best, but it’s still cheesy filmmaking.
Rated PG-13 for horror violence, terror, disturbing images, strong language, sensuality and thematic elements, “Incarnate” runs only 91 minutes, for which we can be truly grateful.
Secular “Incarnate” —
“Exorcist” meets “Inception” —
Not demonic possession;
More like a bad infection.