Review – The Devil Incarnate

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Review – The Devil Incarnate
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The Devil Incarnate
Drama, Horror, Thriller
Image Entertainment, RLJ Entertainment
October 7, 2014
Release length: 1:33:00 (1:16:00 DVD)
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Back in 2013, writer and producer L. Gustavo Cooper started working on his first full-length film Copiii: The 1st Appearance. Prior to it, his work included two short films titled Velvet Road and M is for Music. This time around, Gustav was joined by Jon Bosworth and Coe Douglas to put the finishing touches on the story. Finally, Image Films and RLJ Entertainment picked up the flick, which eventually went under the name The Devil Incarnate. But, is this worth checking out, or is it an unimpressive boring train-wreck?

The story behind The Devil Incarnate follows a young married couple out on their honeymoon. Holly (Graci Carli) wants to visit some of the side shops and tourist traps along the way, while her husband Trevor (Rod Luzzi) is your regular stick-in-the-mud who insists on filming every little thing. Eventually the two stop at a clearly fake psychic’s shop, and are directed by a homeless man to follow the spirit to a lady who will predict their future. But, something happens while there, and Trevor leaves with a necklace after the events that startle Holly. From this point on, she randomly acts out and begins doing odd things that Trevor’s sister, Marissa (Emily Rogers), keeps witnessing as she, like her brother, continues recording everything she can.

The tale itself is about as standard as you can possibly get for any sort of voodoo/paranormal film. The only thing that keeps you guessing at all is Holly’s history. It all starts when they realize she is pregnant. A nurse points out it may be scar tissue, and asks Trevor about Holly’s medical history. From here, her background slowly begins to unravel, but basically every thing not related to the old woman and the introduction winds up a red herring, leading to an incredibly subtle ending that finds everything go full circle with the opening narrative, and a short clip hidden in the credits that makes you wonder it all might just be a story made up by an insane person.

The Devil Incarnate

Sadly, the story isn’t all that well paced either. There’s plenty of scenes where nothing at all happens. Some could argue much of what seems to be filler is meant to push the normal side of Holly anbd help differentiate it from the possessed side that shows from time to time, and, really, it would do just that if it were done right. The progression to the first major breakdown is done well enough, but the scenes with her just standing around do little to make you wonder if she is possessed or just deep in thought about the baby. These just seem to interrupt any flow once they leave the old woman’s house, rarely offering anything compelling to really question what is going on. The only scene that was really effective was her reaction upon seeing her aunt at the baby shower, making you ponder just how that bit of history can actually play into the climax.

While The Devil Incarnate flip-flops between whether it wants to be a psychological Thriller or a full blown paranormal voodoo Horror feature, it also can’t make up its mind if it wants to be found footage or a played straight production. Nearly all of the introduction past the interrogation, and good chunks throughout, are told through the view of the Trevor/Marissa’s camera lens. But, to fill the gaps, we are presented a third person view through the film makers camera instead. This could have been utilized more effectively if it was done in the style of Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, leaving clues throughout the movie and making you question whether or not what you see happening in the recorded footage is what’s really happening in the reality of the characters. There are glimpses of Marissa checking the footage, but we never get to see what it is she’s watching outside a few glimpses on the computer screen when the camera is positioned at just the right angle. Instead, it just winds up like nothing more than an inability to figure out a way to progress the story through the aforementioned found footage angle, which makes trying to follow what little action is happening surprisingly hard to accomplish.

The Devil Incarnate

Of course, there’s the camera of the found footage angle itself. Nearly every time something happens, or there’s any sort of clue for you to pay attention, things get pixelated, or the visuals just cut out (no, the screen shots that look off are not failed uploads or bad screen grabs). Unfortunately, it kind of kills any sudden shock that these twists might execute. There’s absolutely no jump scares other than at the very end in the hospital, a huge plus to this film, but at the same time there’s very little that could even be considered creepy until the events that cause Trevor and Marissa to go back to the town in search for that woman’s home.

That lack of tension isn’t always due to the forewarning effects thrown in post-production, but also thanks to the acting. Pretty much every character here is as flat as can be to begin with, only really putting some emphasis on Holly, Trevor, Marissa, and Marissa’s friend who only appears from time to time through Skype, but you feel like you know as much about her in the end as you do Trevor and his background other than he has a caring family. Of course his character essentially ends up being an uninteresting buzzkilling Adrian Brody lookalike you’ll wish would shut the hell up and quit whining ten, fifteen minutes after he first appears on screen. And then there’s Holly. This one had some potential, but, sadly, most of it was squandered by Graci Carlii who simply couldn’t pull off the shift between normal and under the demon’s spell. Honestly, most of the time when she’s posessed she comes off a raging, inconsiderate bitch thanks to the lack of range. Sometimes she really isn’t possessed though, such as when attacking over a closet, which is explained the deeper into her background you get. And, finally, there’s Marissa, the only character who seems to have any sort of personality at all, and even then Emily Rogers’ line delivery can be flat. When talking to her friend via Skype, for instance, it’s like she is just reading directly from the script to a stranger.

The Devil Incarnate

One last thing that needs to be addressed here is the deceptive marketing. This is yet another film put out by RLJ Entertainment and, yet again, we find these tactics at play to sell the DVD. If you go in assuming this has anything to do with a possessed baby, as the cover artwork depicts, you will be sorely let down. This has absolutely nothing to do with the demon involved. In fact, the film never even addresses the gender of the baby, let alone allude to the possession angle being that of the child growing inside Holly. It couldn’t be the furthest thing from the truth, really. In short, the story is about a demon who lifts a curse of infertility placed on a family in exchange for cutting a baby out of the stomach of a random mother. The baby itself is perfectly innocent and healthy by all standards. Even the depiction of the necklace’s emblem designs on the back of the box is wrong, never being present other than from blood placed on Holly’s side.

That’s not all, sadly, as even the summary on the back of the box lies to you. Never do they suspect that “something sinister lurks within Holly’s womb”. In fact that narrative in the first two minutes debunks that statement entirely. It’s also Marissa who searches for answers as to what is wrong, as Trevor just walks around like an oblivious dolt who can’t see past his own nose, making excuses the whole film until the evidence can no longer be denied. Everything but the three tiny screen shots, the first of which only show for maybe two seconds of the whole film, are manipulated truths and outright lies that make the viewer expect something far more different than you are given, and RLJ/Image Entertainment should be absolutely ashamed of practising such tactics or allowing them to happen, whatever the case may be. I should know. Unfortunately, I fell for them. The movie I expected based on all this was in no way what I actually bought.

What’s more, this may not even be the actual final cut of the film that premiered in The Phillipines earlier on in July of 2014. According to its page on IMDB.com (which has a far more accurate summary of the film than the back of the DVD does), this film is actually ninety-three minutes long. However, the official DVD release clocks in at seventy-six minutes. So, much like Mantera, if the original version was just over an hour-and-a-half, we received a largely butchered cut for some reason. But, really, if we got a longer version, would that extra seventeen minutes really have provided more worth-while information that might have made the film better? Truthfully, it might have. Everything in this version seems like coincidence, such as Holly having been raised close to the town they meet the old woman in, an element glanced over through a latter google search that is never brought up again. It feels like there’s more buried in Holly’s history that would cause the story and its events to make much more sense in the long run.

But, sadly, I can’t say for certain whether it would or not. Other than finding that length on various reputable sites, I can’t even verify such a longer version exists. This DVD doesn’t even come with a commentary track, which is where you can usually go to find out what happened, maybe get some additional footage not left in the final cut of the film, or anything to really cast light on this. You don’t even get the ability to choose between standard 2.0 mono or 5.1 surround sound audio on the DVD. All you get is the film and scene select option, leaving this a literal bare bones release in every way possible that makes the possible shorter cut concept plausible. If the companies involved didn’t want to put the extra effort in, why leave the film itself at a length that might require more than a basic manufacturer’s DVD duplication cost? Fit as little on a cheap disc, and you increase your profits further, right?

The Devil Incarnate

The Devil Incarnate, or Copiii: The 1st Entry as it was originally meant to be titled, is a by-the-book Voodoo oriented flick that is as boring as it can get. There’s absolutely no risk being taken, the production is annoying as hell, and any intentions towards it being more of a psychological experience are executed as poorly as most of the dialogue and facial expressions of the cast. This is the third film that L. Gustavo Cooper wrote and produced, and the first that isn’t a short story by the time it was filmed. Honestly, that’s exactly what this should have been. The Devil Incarnate simply doesn’t have enough meat to it to warrant anything over an hour, unless the apparent missing footage contradicts that. Instead we’re left with a great deal of fat that easily could have been trimmed to make it flow a lot smoother. But, what can you expect from a company that clearly had so little faith in its own product that it flat out lied and altered the truth in its summary on the back of the DVD case to lure people (such as myself) into buying their boring, bland, and incredibly generic movie that will have you checking how much is left every couple of minutes. In its current state, the film is a bust. But, hopefully, if there is a longer version, we’ll see it released one day, and maybe this will all make sense then.

Overall Score: 2.5/10

Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.