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‘Incarnate’ inane, inconsistent

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Exorcism offering squanders intriguing premise

Few film genres are as beholden to trends as horror. The temptation to chase ideas that are popular, regardless of how derivative they might be, is significant.

What this means is that we sometimes see an assortment of movies built around the same basic concept, whether it’s zombies or aliens or home invasions or ghosts or whatever.

In “Incarnate,” we get the latest in a fairly long, uneven line of exorcism movies. And while it is far from the worst of the bunch, it also fails to do much with what starts out as a fairly interesting idea; ultimately, it winds up as a convoluted and confusing film lacking in scares and narrative coherence.

Dr. Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart, “Bleed for This”) is a man with the ability to enter the minds of other people and help force out entities that have taken up residence within them by showing the people in question that what they are experiencing is not real (Note: Dr. Ember makes it very clear that he does NOT perform exorcisms; he refers to them as “evictions”).

Ember has spent his mind-entering life in pursuit of a demon (sorry – “parasitic entity”) that he calls Maggie; he holds this creature responsible for the accident that killed his wife and son and left him confined to a wheelchair. So when a representative from the Vatican shows up at his door with a briefcase full of cash and the promise of finally stopping Maggie once and for all, Ember and his team are forced into action.

A young boy named Cameron (David Mazouz, TV’s “Gotham”) living with his mother Lindsay (Carice van Houton, TV’s “Game of Thrones”) has been possessed by a being that might well be the elusive Maggie. But when Dr. Ember tries to go into Cameron’s head to save the boy and destroy the intruder, he soon discovers that this fight is going to be the toughest of his life – a fight that he himself might not survive.

The central idea of “Incarnate” is actually a pretty intriguing one. The notion of an exorcist removed from the standard religious trappings that typically surround the vocation could allow for some interesting explorations. It’s certainly a different take, and different is almost always welcome when it comes to horror movie tropes.

Unfortunately, Ronnie Christensen’s script fails to effectively take advantage of that promising conceit. Instead, “Incarnate” is a messy hodgepodge, inconsistent both in terms of tone and its own internal logic. Too much of the film simply doesn’t make sense. A movie like this only succeeds if it establishes a set of rules and follows them.

Aaron Eckhart is a talented guy, but the dude makes some weird choices in terms of the roles that he takes on. He’s working REALLY hard here – far harder than you’d expect from a guy in a paycheck part in a Blumhouse production – but it’s all for naught. He growls and grumbles and squints and sweats – all in the name of an underwritten role in a forgettable horror offering. You want to admire the commitment, but it really just comes off as sad.

The supporting cast doesn’t fare much better. Carice van Houton doesn’t get much to do. Neither does Catalina Moreno, who plays the Vatican representative. David Mazouz seems to be carving out a niche as the go-to kid actor in crummy horror films (see “The Darkness” from earlier this year); let’s just say the kid does his best. No one else really does anything good or bad enough to merit mention.

“Incarnate” doesn’t quite reach the depths to which some of the year’s worst horror offerings sank. But a lot of fun could have been had with the story’s premise. Instead, it’s little more than a squandered opportunity, another quickly forgotten entry on the list of disposable exorcism offerings.

[1.5 out of 5]

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