The Devil Incarnate is the first film from indie filmmaker L. Gustavo Cooper, who previously garnered attention by way of his his short film Velvet Road. Devil Incarnate is a mixture of found footage and traditional cinematography, following a newlywed couple on their honeymoon and chronicling the the pregnancy that follows. While driving across Florida they find themselves in the psychic community Cassadega. Holly, the new wife, wants her fortune told. Her husband, Trevor, thinks that it’s a ridiculous idea but wants to document everything on their trip and keep his new bride happy so he agrees. The old woman they are led to curses Holly and from there things take a predictably dark turn. Holly starts acting differently. And as the pregnancy develops she becomes more and more unstable and unexplainable things start happening.
What hurts Devil Incarnate right out of the gate is the fact that it was made around the same time as so many similar films, like Devil’s Due and Delivery: The Beast Within. This is obviously not the fault of the filmmaker. From the production standpoint these things are virtually unpredictable. What helps The Devil Incarnate stand out from those movies is its folkloric take on the traditional supernatural pregnancy story and the intriguing way it was shot.
The story is a bit muddled and becomes harder to follow as it develops and some of the plot holes are more than a little noticeable. But what helps the film along is that once the cursed pregnancy is set up, the role of protagonist shifts to Trevor’s sister, Marissa. She is by far the most interesting and well developed character in the movie and from that point on it becomes about her struggle to understand what is going on in her family. More interesting than the traditional supernatural pregnancy is the realization that nobody knows much of anything about Holly or her past. Marissa decides to make uncovering Holly’s backstory her mission, in part because she wants to know what’s going on and in part because she’s in love with Holly. This could easily come across as forced, but her character and her affection for Holly actually feel genuine.
The reason the character driven portions of the film work so well is thanks, in no small part, to its cast. While there are no known actors in the movie, it is mostly well cast and the actors do well with their roles, especially given the incredibly short shoot and the nonexistent budget. Graci Carli as Holly and Emily Rogers as Marissa both stand out.
The cinematography is another strong point. The film is well shot, although it does at times get surprisingly hard to tell the difference between the found footage sequences and the segments that were achieved using traditional camerawork at the beginning of a scene. But that does keep the viewer interested when the pacing begins to fumble.
Don’t get me wrong, The Devil Incarnate is a good start and definitely shows the beginning of a promising career. But the movie was made very quickly and very cheaply and there are places where that shows. Surprisingly, though, the movie looks more expensive than it is and this is due to the competent manner in which it was shot and cast. More than anything, the script needed more time to develop. If the script and the story had been firmly established the feature could definitely have been something special. As it stands, it falls just short.
Still, The Devil Incarnate is not a bad movie. It holds your interest and it manages to pack in some genuine, surprising scares. There are a few jump scares throughout the film but to Cooper’s credit they are fairly restrained. Much of the horror results from the acting and Carli’s intense performance. It’s subtle horror that is much more effective than the screaming woman who curses them in the beginning. Which is another interesting but not surprising thing about The Devil Incarnate: it seems to find itself as it goes. This makes sense for a debut feature, a director can find their footing as the process unfolds. The movie feels more mature at the end than it does at the beginning. It has a generic start, but becomes more interesting when Marissa and the rest of Trevor’s family are introduced. There are certainly noticeable plot holes, but they don’t stop the movie from at least being enjoyable. It is a competently made amateur feature that, while it fumbles, shows a lot of promise.
WICKED RATING: 5.5/10 [usr 5.5]
Director(s): L. Gustavo Cooper
Writer(s): Jon Bosworth, L. Gustavo Cooper
Stars: Carli, Rod Luzzi, Emily Rogers
Year: Currently available on DVD
Studio/ Production Co: Image Entertainment
Length: 93 minutes
Sub-Genre: Supernatural Horror