[Review] A Decent Monster Movie Lurks Somewhere in ‘Discarnate’
In Discarnate, Dr. Andre Mason (Thomas Kretschmann) is a neuroscientist leading a cutting edge experiment with a newly discovered hallucinogen that may offer a glimpse of “the other side.” His crew’s goal is no less lofty than proving that there is life after death. Andre is heavily motivated by the death of his son who was killed 10 years ago by a monstrous supernatural force, as seen in the film’s pre-credits hook. Andre’s emotional investment leads him to take the study a bit too far. The safety of his entire crew is put at risk as they begin to have encounters with the monstrous entity, not to mention various other ghosts that reside beyond the veil.
Any movie that plans to straddle both the paranormal and monster movie subgenres needs the viewer to suspend as much disbelief as possible. Discarnate’s biggest problem is that the flaws in the first act constantly prevent us from letting our guard down. Poor pacing and heavy-handed exposition immediately bring the focus onto what the movie is doing wrong rather than what’s happening in the story. Furthermore, the laxness surrounding the supposedly scientific study conducted at an abandoned murder house with participants allowed to freely wander about drinking wine adds insult to injury when it comes to allowing the viewer to dive into the movie’s reality.
Luckily, at some point in the second act the film seems to shake off its flaws and find its footing. You can almost see director Mario Sorrenti getting better as Discarnate (his first feature film) progresses. We’re now more engaged in the story and the characters, especially after seeing a bit more of Dr. Andre’s backstory. The downside is that we are now firmly entrenched in the trappings of a run-of-the-mill paranormal movie complete with jump scares, creepy kids, and the audiovisual trickery that is typical of your average 21st century ghost movie. The occasional glimpse of the monster that has been hinted at since the movie’s opening keeps hope alive that the movie could turn into something more.
As the film builds toward its conclusion, it sheds the stock sound effects of children ominously giggling in favor of action-oriented confrontations with our titular monster. We go from seeing too little of the monster to borderline too much, as we get numerous full body shots of the ghoul. Fortunately, the monster’s Venom-mated-with-Slenderman appearance is one of the film’s best attributes. At this point, we also learn that both the creature and the movie have some tricks up their sleeves that are a far cry from the paint-by-numbers ghost movie we saw in the first two thirds of the film.
Discarnate is essentially a decent monster movie disguised as a subpar ghost movie. The most interesting part of the film is its monster-heavy third act, but you’ve got to slog through the trappings of every paranormal movie you’ve ever seen to get there. However, if you hang on through the off-putting first act and the jump-scare-laden midsection, you’ll find that Discarnate has some redeemable moments that may make it worth the ride.
Discarnate is currently available to rent on Amazon, iTunes, and other streaming services.