Let’s play with drugs.
Discarnate is another no-name horror film that seems to have simply manifested on Prime rather than going through the traditional phases of advertisement and release.
We follow Dr. Andre Mason who becomes obsessed with experiencing the supernatural (or mind-altering stuff) after his son is taken by a ghostly entity. He discovers a tea that works as a gateway drug (like the pun?) between dimensions. He wants to take some of the tea and do an experiment on it under research conditions.
The plot has a decent enough set-up. Obviously, once the team takes the drug shit goes awry, and this is where the horror elements come in.
The biggest problem with this film is the almost uncountable small issues that crop up almost everywhere. Cinemasins would have a field day with this as there is something off-putting in a lot of the scenes. Transitions are weird, dialogue is stilted, characters flat, setting oddly ambiguous (despite saying it is in California), odd dialogue, and a complete lack of knowledge about how a research trial would go. The biggest test for audiences here is whether or not they can get grabbed by the film fast enough to forgive the numerous issues.
The pacing of the film is weird. We start in the past, jump to a trip, jump back, then jump forward, and then stay at the current for most of the running time. For a film that is asking for a lot of buy in from the audience it certainly janks around with the plot for the first ten-fifteen minutes.
Dickhead characters certainly don’t help anything. Researchers are obnoxiously professional in the real world. The type of study done here would take the better part of a year to get through the IRB process, and there would be no surprises as the study begins. (Also, why would you study drugs that make you see ghosts in an uncontrolled environment—a mansion in this case-they do try to explain this, but it isn’t addressed on the research angle).
The film isn’t found footage, but it includes stupid documentary elements like a lot of text on the screen. While this is a small issue, it does show how overly serious the film was taken. We get a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo throughout, but not enough of the basic scares. I get that they were trying to establish the ethos of the researchers, but it comes at the cost of an engaging story.
Perhaps the worst part of the film is that we have another example of movie getting obviously fake reviews on IMDB and Prime. Although, the reviews seem to be getting a little better at masking themselves (a lot of 7-9/10 instead of 10/10). Now, there are a lot of issues with people simply rating every movie they enjoy too highly, or ones they didn’t enjoy too lowly, but fake reviews are a blight that needs to die.
Putting a fake review up is a great way to trick folks into watching the film, but you’re going to piss them off in the process. Through retaliation, the person tricked will leave a 1-star review as revenge. Oddly, the average score between the two groups tends to level out the film to a more realistic scale.
Discarnate isn’t a great film. Plotting issues aside, we have an uneven pacing, poor lighting, and an overreliance on loud noise jump scares. However, the film maintains a basic level of competency that keeps it from being a complete dumpster fire. On an enjoyment scale, the biggest problem is that the film is just kind of boring. For me, another big problem is that we don’t get a great look at a lot of the scares due to poor lighting.
Watching people trip out and interact with ghosts just isn’t as interesting as you’d think. The additional layer of the monster doesn’t add what you’d hope, either. We almost have two ideas smashed together here and neither works very well.
In the end, we have a subpar horror film exacerbated by fake reviews. I’d skip it.