Where are the chills?

Carice van Houten plays the mother of the boy Aaron Eckhart (both above) is trying to exorcise in the horror movie Incarnate.
Carice van Houten plays the mother of the boy Aaron Eckhart (both above) is trying to exorcise in the horror movie Incarnate.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE



86 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2/5 stars

The story: Eleven-year-old boy Cameron (David Mazouz) gets possessed by a vicious demon. A scientist, Dr Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart), uses an unconventional method to exorcise the evil spirit. He enters the boy's subconscious mind to battle and cast out the demon there.

This unscary chiller, directed by Brad Peyton (San Andreas, 2015), tries to put a new spin on a tired possession tale by mixing it up with an alternate-reality, mind-trip angle.

It comes across as The Exorcist meets The Matrix, but with little of the smarts or thrills of those two films.

"I go into the victims' minds; I evict them from the inside," explains the unpriestly therapistscientist, Dr Ember (Eckhart), referring to the casting out of demons and evil spirits he calls "entities".

There is little attempt to offer any cogent reasoning for this approach except for a quick back-story about a malicious body-hopping demon named "Maggie" bearing a personal grudge against Dr Ember.

Apparently, it can sense his mind-probe ability and toys with him by killing his wife and son in a previous car accident.

When a sceptical Vatican representative alerts the exorcist-doctor to the unholy plight of a mother, Lindsay (Game Of Thrones' Carice van Houten), and her stricken young son who is Maggie's latest victim, this history comes back to bug Dr Ember.

Horror fans will see through everything two steps ahead and would likely scoff at the gimmicky attempt to differentiate between the real world and the subconscious one Dr Ember enters.

As he goes into the mind fights, he is a vigorous clean-shaven man running around to rescue possessed persons from deceptive horror illusions by telling them to open doors or jump out of windows to escape.

In reality, the exorcist dude is actually a dishevelled, bitter and boozy disabled man stuck in a wheelchair. He is isolated in a dark room with the possessed child while hooked up to emergency life-support equipment as he is locked into some sort of induced sleep close to the point of death.

One knows this is standard exorcism-movie fare because the boy keeps staring with the evil eyes of movie-ish creepy children while imbued with X-Men's Magneto- like abilities such as flinging grown-ups right up to the ceiling with a wave of the hand.

"Go through the door now, you're not going to get another chance," Dr Ember yells to the boy to break out of his possessed mind world.

Sounds like good advice for the audience too.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2016, with the headline 'Where are the chills?'. Print Edition | Subscribe