‘Incarnate’ is the first horror movie in the career of filmmaker Brad Peyton, who has made a name for himself for directing a number of action-adventures starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, including ‘ Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ and ‘San Andreas’. Made in collaboration with Blumhouse Productions and WWE Studios, the film revolves around Dr. Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart), who embarks on a path of retribution against a malevolent and parasitical entity after it causes the deaths of his wife and son. The film has ample jump scares and diabolical twists and turns to keep the audience interested in it throughout its 90-minute runtime. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Incarnate Plot Synopsis
Since the deaths of his wife Anna (Karolina Wydra) and son Jake (Emjay Anthony) in a vehicular crash, Ember has been hunting the entity responsible, known simply as Maggie (after the old woman whose body it was possessing during the crash) to him and his two associates, Oliver (Keir O’Donnell) and Riley (Emily Jackson). He has evicted (his preferred term over “exorcise” as he believes that it has less religious connotation) several similar but lesser entities. One day, he learns from the Vatican representative Camilla Marquez (Catalina Sandino Moreno) that Maggie has possessed an 11-year-old boy named Cameron Sparrow (David Mazouz). Skeptical at first, the moment Ember sees the boy and speaks to the entity, he realizes that Camilla is right.
Teetering between his need for revenge and the apprehension for the boy’s safety, Ember uses his paranormal abilities to dive deep into Cameron’s consciousness to free it from Maggie’s clutches. Although his first attempt fails, he learns that Maggie has a hold on Cameron’s mind through the memories he made with his estranged father, Dan (Matthew Nable). Now, Ember must find a way to convince Cameron that what he is experiencing is not real, but a projection from his own memories that the entity has created to keep him busy while it feeds on his aura or soul (the film describes it as a cluster of ions that vibrates in different frequencies for different people).
After his attempt to free Cameron with Dan’s help ends in the latter’s death, Ember decides to go inside the young boy’s mind once more and acquires a ring that holds personal value for him from his mother Lindsay (Carice van Houten). He also gets a vial of poison from the home of his former mentor. Made from the blood of the possessed, it can give 10 seconds of lucidity during a possession so a person can commit suicide. After he dives again into Cameron’s psyche, he finds himself at a carnival. Like the one before, this projection is also based on one of the boy’s precious memories with his father. Despite the abuse he has suffered in Dan’s hands, Cameron still misses him, which likely has enabled Maggie to strengthen its grip on his mind.
Although he manages to convince Cameron that nothing he is experiencing is real by showing him the ring and helps him gain back full control over his body, Maggie manages to invade Embver’s own mind and creates a utopia where all that he witnessed since the accident are part of an elaborate dream that he was having while he was in a coma. In this perfect world, his wife and son are still alive, and he isn’t in a wheelchair. Despite the vividness and promises of this projection, it comes apart for Ember the moment he sees that time has been frozen, one of the telltale signs of a possession-induced reality. As he fights Maggie inside his head, Riley injects the poison into his bloodstream. In those subsequent moments of clarity, he jumps from the window and falls several stories down. However, Ember seems to have survived the fall and is later revived in an ambulance on its way to the hospital.
Is Ember Dead?
As it is evident in the final scene, what comes back is not Ember. He died not long after he hit the pavement. Because his body was revived, he failed to permanently evict and kill Maggie. The film carefully sets up the rules of the world it is depicting through several expositions and shows what will happen if they are not followed. Touching a possessed is prohibited because that is one of the ways that the entities can travel from one consciousness to another. The only way to kill them is to evict them and then bereft them of any other host. Maggie gains control of Dan’s body and kills him after Cameron gets a hold of his father’s arm. In Ember’s case, it is powerful enough that it can use the mental connection between him and Cameron to get to his mind. Although Ember sacrifices himself so he can kill it, he stays awake longer than 10 seconds after landing on the ground, and Maggie takes over the body. So, it is Maggie that the paramedics end up bringing back.
What Happens to Camilla?
Camila accompanies Ember as the paramedics take him to the hospital, and even demands that they use the defibrillators one more time on their patient. The final shock works, and there is a pulse. What Camila doesn’t know is that Ember has died on the street. So, when Maggie asks her to give it her hand, she happily does so. And the parasite is transferred from Ember to Camilla. The former dies, while the latter’s eyes turn a shade of black. Maggie knew that the husk that was Ember’s body would not be much use to it. With the original owner dead, it would gradually decay and wither away. But now, it has a healthy host on whom it can feed for a long time.
Furthermore, the possession of Camilla gives it a unique opportunity to infiltrate the Catholic Church itself. While the film makes it quite clear that these beings are not exclusive to any faith, religious artifacts such as a cross seem to nonetheless hurt them. Maggie can now corrupt the Church from the inside and topple one of the powers that have been in war with its kind for thousands of years.
Read More: Where Was Incarnate Filmed?