The Incident Review (TIFF 2011) – Since retitled as ‘Asylum Blackout’

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Telemarketers, Republicans, people who like Arby’s and adult Miley Cyrus fans, that’s right, every type of lunatic imaginable can be found in Alexandre Courtès’ new insane asylum horror-thriller, The Incident. Well, don’t quote me on the types of lunatics listed above, just be assured that there are plenty of madmen on the loose in this film. Courtès has been a music video director for years, having worked with U2, The White Stripes, Kylie Minogue and Franz Ferdinand. The Incident is his debut feature film.

Everything was alright on the surface, George (Rupert Evans), Max (Kenny Doughty) and Ricky (Joseph Kennedy) may be in a band that is struggling, and they may not have the best jobs, cooking and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for inmates in an insane asylum, but at least they have their health, both physical and mental. However, things change one evening before dinner service when a storm knocks out the primary and backup power supplies of the asylum. The security guards have lost control, and the doors that lead out of the asylum are on lock down. Can the band members survive and maintain their sanity until help arrives, or will an encounter with the dangerous inmates running loose in the shadowy corridors be their last?

There’s not a lot to The Incident, in the sense that the script isn’t overly impressive and the acting isn’t out of this world, although some of the inmates are exceptional. Also, the environment is quite small. Many of the rooms and hallways are reused for multiple scenes, not necessarily because the story calls for it, but more likely because of accessibility issues while shooting. However, that said, The Incident manages to work well as a tight and to the point horror film, and considering it is a debut, Alexandre Courtès should be proud.

Hanging out in the asylum for 90 minutes could have been a tedious task, luckily there is a nice balance to the personalities of inmates loose in the asylum. Some are frothing at the mouth and love nothing more than killing and carnage. Others are just disturbed or have the mental capacity of a child and are basically harmless. This variety makes encounters between the cooks and inmates in the dark hallways a surprise, sometimes the audience experiences a fight or a chase, while other encounters may provide comic relief. Courtès also provides the audience with the right amount of violence. It would have been easy for this film, given the story, to be extremely gruesome. Courtès does not shy away from gore, but also does not overdo it. Some scenes will have viewers squirming in their seats, but there is enough time to mentally recuperate in between these displays of gore.

My only gripe with The Incident is that the final portion of the film is not as effective as it could have been. There seems to be a fascination, in the past decade or so, with providing audiences with seemingly cerebral endings, regardless of the nature of the film. I didn’t entirely follow the last 15 minutes of The Incident or see why certain parts were integral to the story, but I did grasp the implications of the finale. I got a sense of what Courtès was trying to do, but feel that it could have been set up more effectively or perhaps taken in a different direction altogether for a more effective climax and ending. Sometimes it’s alright for a slasher to be just a slasher, perhaps with The Incident it would have even been ideal.

If you’re a fan of horror films or have a fascination with the mentally disinclined, then check out The Incident. Perhaps Alexandre Courtès has a future in horror films. I am very interested to hear what his next project will be.

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