The Incarnation review – haunted-house horror with a property-greed edge | Movies


Some day there will be PhD theses written on the strange anomie of films shot during the pandemic, written so everything basically happens in one house using just a handful of actors. There have already been scads of low-budget horror films in this mode which have trickled out over the last few months, and some are quite interesting and inventive. This one, not so much.

A good-looking young couple, Brad (Taye Diggs) and Jess (Jessica Uberuaga), have just bought a house somewhere in the hills above California’s San Fernando Valley. Seen often via drone footage, it is an oddly constructed abode that looks like a cross between geodesic dome and an egg incubator. Meanwhile, the camera spends a lot of time roaming the building’s corridors and empty rooms, like we’re watching an estate agent’s VR tour. That sort of fits given Brad and Jess are small-time developers who buy places like this in order to flip them for profit.

In a way, this is a throwback to a whole cycle of films from a few years back in which upwardly mobile young people are punished by supernatural forces for their property greed. Presumably we are meant to feel that the characters here get what they deserve for this sin of acquisition.

Their wrongdoing is compounded when they start using a book of incantations they find in a spare room that generates gold coins and creepy, pentacular arrangements of bric-a-brac, as if the house is haunted by a satanic fan of Joseph Beuys. Michael Madsen is also on hand as a previous owner who alludes ominously to his father’s fascination with the occult. Clearly, this will not go well.

Eventually things get mildly scary and all those white walls, neutral furniture and plain beige flooring are smothered with lashings of blood. The dialogue is wooden, the performances stilted and it’s all just a bit too pro forma – until a truly upsetting flashback involving the younger Brad’s pet dog. Then the film turns a corner from dreary to repugnant.

The Incarnation is released on 7 March on digital platforms.

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