@thesubstream - Midnight Madness Review - THE INCIDENT

The Incident probably shouldn't work as well as it does. It's music video director Alexandre Courtes' first feature film, and he's a Frenchman who was directing English actors playing American dirtbags in 1989, shooting in Belgium. The film bears the little scars of all these unlikelihoods - accents wander all over the place, there are a handful of pointless scenes, it's got a pat last 10 minutes - but Courtes, cinematographer Laurent Tangy and production designer Paul Rouschop's collective visual chops hoist The Incident right up out of its little trouble areas. Mostly.

Set in a bunker-looking asylum for the criminally insane, The Incident begins with tension among the shaggy-dog rock-band-cum-kitchen-crew that are responsible for feeding the inmates. The guitarist is questioning the drummer's reliability, others feel the singer might bail on the whole thing to just be with his chick, man. Their squabbles are amplified by the bizarre, threatening behaviour of the inmates who receive their meals from the boys through a small slit in a large pane of glass. Things get much worse - and much bloodier - when the power is knocked out with all of the inmates out of their cells.

The Incident is a mixed bag, fortunately with more good nuts than bad. It looks spectacular, with a level of polish in its set and costume design, photography and bloody effects work that's better than what you get with most major-release horror films. The performances are fairly good, as well (ignoring if possible the accent issues), and that's as much to do with the actors as it is to do with a script that in its first two-thirds works quite well.

Tension is ratcheted up quite slowly, and while the Jérôme Fansten's script doesn't do much to differentiate the three leads or the various lurking crazy people character-wise, it does root them in enough shorthand period detail that they seem known to us quite quickly.

Where the film falls apart, a bit, is in its disappointing, way too arbitrary last few minutes. The film climaxes with a scene so grisly, and so goofily horrifying that it literally knocked out a couple of people at the screening I was at, but that triumphant moment is then immediately bundled up into a weird change in direction that's supposed to be shocking or meaningful but is actually closer to pointless. If you're still smiling, as I was, from the film's numerous legitimate pleasures, the film's conclusion won't sting you too much, but if you're a stickler, Courtes' high-wire act of a first feature eventually, inevitably stumbles.

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