Full disclosure: going into Incarnate, I’d written the film of as “The Insidious Exorcist,” considering the trailers I’d seen had portrayed the film to look as derivative as any other cash-in horror title. While I’d amend that title to “The Insidious Incepting Exorcist,” I wouldn’t do so out of snark or disapproval. Rather, as much as I was prepared to dislike the film, Incarnate is a surprisingly decent movie. While it could still use some polishing, and a little more meat to the bones of the plot, it left me actually wanting the sequel that it teased.
Dr. Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart) isn’t an exorcist in the traditional sense. Rather, he’s more of a search party that can go into your mind and rescue you in the event of a demonic possession. Like any good hunters, Seth has a particular prey he’s hunting, an old foe whose only goal is to make his life a living hell. Its latest victim is a young boy (David Mazouz) who will need all the help he can get if he ever hopes to live a normal life again. Lucky for him, Dr. Ember is ready to tangle with his nemesis, and save the boy through any means necessary.
Perhaps the greatest surprise that greeted me during my viewing of Incarnate is the fact that, despite its central conceit acting as a mash-up between ideas executed in other films, it actually stands as an individual project that makes it work. While the film’s story certainly still has its flaws, and feels like it could have taken its time to tell the story a little better, the final product doesn’t rely on jump scares and convoluted mythology to build itself up. Rather, the story of Incarnate opens the door to a very interesting possibilities for the future, while at the same time offering a satisfying one-off story that can be passed along horror aficionados hungry for a good film.
Ultimately, the success of Incarnate rides on the back of Aaron Eckhart and the supporting cast that make up the film’s roster. While everyone’s fine in their respective support roles, Eckhart is definitely the core of this film’s cast, and he does not disappoint. With Seth treading the usual road of an embattled hero with a score to settle, the character can easily fall into one-note territory in the wrong hands. But with Aaron Eckhart’s chops, Dr. Ember is as three dimensional as the writer would have hoped, with just that little extra to help pave over some of the cracks in the foundation.