Meeting new people is always scary. You might worry about their political leanings, musical taste, or if they’re a family of possible cannibals who enjoy spending an evening performing plastic surgery without anesthetics on unwilling subjects. You know, common fears. While Incision, directed by Az and written by Chris Kato, has its share of problems, it is a strong freshman effort from the new filmmakers.
The movie follows an internet influencer, pro football player, record producer, and pop star who are captured by our wacky family while looking for a missing laptop. So, right off the bat, a relatable premise. Taken by surprise, they have to find a way to survive and escape from the deranged doctor and his hostile household.
Incision lets you know right away what you’re in for but then takes about forty minutes to get to the action. Usually, the point of this lull in a horror film is to get a chance to know our protagonists and establish a connection with the audience. Not only do the filmmakers fail to make their characters relatable, but they also make them absolutely terrible. Whiny, self-indulgent, and entitled are just a few adjectives I could use. And the acting. Well… bless their hearts, they’re trying.
There is plenty of fertile ground to explore in our beauty-obsessed culture or in the tortured artist wanting to create something sublimely beautiful. But Kato’s script gives us none of that. Instead, we get spoiled rich kids vs. standard horror movie crazies. Sort of Keeping Up with the Kardashians meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
“…a family of possible cannibals who enjoy spending an evening performing plastic surgery without anesthetic on unwilling subjects.”
What kept me watching, however, was the direction. Despite being a very raw and amateurish production, with pacing issues, Az creates a sense of menace that pervades most of the movie. And the screenplay actually has the characters thinking ahead, doing some rational things before the “fun” starts. They’re not just a group of dopey teenagers stumbling into a slasher’s knife. They start with some reasonable precautions.
When Incision begins in earnest, the low-budget Grand Guignol will be entertaining to a particular portion of the population. And honestly, once the cuts begin, the whole movie really starts to come together. Az does a wonderful job with very little. While it’s clear that this was made on a micro-budget (imagine if Mar Vista productions did gore porn), the director manages to wring out every scare possible. Yes, a few moments will feel familiar to horror fans, but it always seems more like homage than theft.
Of special note are the makeup and digital effects. These are a big reason why the scares in Incision work at all. There are some quality amputation effects, but the horrifying facelifts and cheek implants are pure nightmare fuel.
Of course, the biggest problem in Incision is the whole “mental illness = monster” trope. It’s a little dated and on the cusp of being offensive. It is difficult to justify in a script why someone would want to capture and torture strangers without suggesting they have a damaged mind. But, Incision leans into the idea that all neuro-atypical people are inherently dangerous. It is a harmful stereotype that is difficult to get away from in horror. Ok, I’m sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox.
On the minus side, Incision has pacing problems and relies too heavily on tired cliches. On the plus side, there are some fantastic practical effects and scares. It’s an uneven but strong showing from two people new to film, and I hope we’ll see more from them in the future.
"…creates a sense of menace that pervades most of the movie."