Despite an intriguing premise and a major John Carpenter vibe, DISCARNATE (2018) is a hot mess express, though it manages to gain some coherence by the end.
The film begins with Dr. Andre Mason’s (Thomas Kretschmann) child dying, which sets him on the path to find out what happened to him and also to determine if there’s life after death. Fast forward to him receiving a drug from a woman named Maya (the gorgeous Nadine Velazquez) that facilitates contact with the spirit world, and then fast forward to Mason and his group of researchers testing the drug. Of course things are going to go wrong, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m picturing I’m in store for HELL HOUSE meets SILENT HILL, which would have been super cool.
Unfortunately, the wonkiness of the first act’s pacing starts to seep into the characters, dialogue, and everything else. The researchers all take the drug and then wander off to do their own thing. There’s zero scientific protocol to make the experiment seem even remotely authentic. The monitor from the organization funding the experiment plays the jerk seemingly just to be a jerk.
Then things go to hell fast. There’s little contact with spirits but the real threat isn’t them but a formless creature that feeds on the living so as to become mortal again. The more of the drug the researchers take, the more the creature is able to notice and interact with them, putting them all in danger. It’s here the film gains some coherence to come in for a solid landing.
The film has a lot going for it, there are things to like here, and it’s obvious real love and a lot of work went into it. There’s some decent creep factor, the premise is terrific, and the creature is pretty good. But it falls apart with sloppy dialogue, odd pacing, and too much going on in a scientific experiment that doesn’t remotely behave like one. I have to give DISCARNATE a C+, though dedicated horror fans might love it.