Written by: Glenn Ciano (story), Carl V. Duprť (screenplay)
Directed by: Glenn Ciano
Starring: Robert Englund, William Forsythe and Joey Fatone
Reviewed by: Brett G.
We must all face our demons.
Though Robert Englund brought one of horrorís most indelible icons to life, itís tough to debate that a lot of his non-Nightmare on Elm Street filmography is a little roughshod, to put it mildly. Despite this, I still try to keep up with them mostly out of obligation, plus you can always expect an earnest performance from Englund regardless of the material. You could stick him in a softcore porno and heíd treat it as if it were King Lear (see: Night Terrors). One of his latest efforts to hit video store shelves, Inkubus, isnít a porno, even though itís centered around the fabled demon that knocks women up as they sleep. Englund obviously knows a thing or two about playing a dream demon, and since Warner Brothers and Platinum Dunes have likely robbed us of any chances to see him play Freddy Krueger again, Inkubus acts as the next best thing.
Opening with a chaotically rendered birth-gone-wrong, the film is framed by a detective (Joey Fatone) giving a testimony to a psychiatrist that revolves around a nightmarish night on the job. It all begins when a girl winds up dead and her boyfriend is the only possibly suspect--until Englund wanders into the interrogation holding the girlís severed head and claiming to be Inkubus, an ancient demon responsible for centuriesí worth of murders. Heís surprisingly cooperative, though, and even goes so far as to bring in a retired cop (a silver-haired William Forsythe) that he once tormented years ago.
Even though this setup is super-belabored and kind of results in the movie disappearing up its own ass (the whole thing is a flashback and itís constantly tripping over itself because of it), thereís a sense that Inkubus has some grand scheme up his sleeve (where itís tucked away right alongside his bladed signature weapon). The problem is that he maybe has one scheme too many, and the film can never settle on its through-line, as both Fatone and Forsythe kind of split duties as the leads, and their stories never exactly gel together. That the film often chooses to abandon a veteran like Forsythe to give a former NíSync member some screen-time speaks to how ill-conceived it sometimes is. Forsytheís story is the more interesting of the two due to his natural charisma and gravitas, not to mention the accessibility of it--we quickly gather that his rivalry with Inkubus wrecked his life (so much so that he now requires a social worker/psychologist), so the antagonism between him and Englund clicks rather well.
Fatone, on the other hand, is just sort of there because heís the cop whoís on duty; his wife (Michelle Ray Smith) is also a cop that happens to be on duty that same night, and the film drops a lot of hints about how Inkubus needs to find a new host to shed his current mortal coil, so any swift viewers will have all the dots connected here in no time. Maybe the film itself expects that much, though, because it kind of quickly turns into Englund slicing and dicing his way through the extraneous cast, which isnít an altogether bad thing. Inkubus is armed with a host of supernatural powers that allow him to screw with his victims before dispatching them in gruesome fashion. The effects are generally fine, with some of the gags (like a spine-ripping and the Alien-style womb-busting) proving to be somewhat memorable; Inkubus only feels assured when itís in this straight-slasher mode, which constitutes maybe half of the running time, so itís not an altogether dull experience (especially since it's only about 75 minutes long).
Plus, Englund is as delightfully creepy and twisted as youíd expect him to be; Iíd say heís channeling Freddy here, but heís done that so often with other roles that such a declaration seems obvious at this point. Still, heís got a psychotic glimmer that gives Inkubus just enough of a spark. He canít help to completely overcome the filmís budget constraints, which become obvious every time you bounce from one bland white-washed set to another and with every instance of poor effects, but if thereís an appeal to be found in Englund riffing on Freddy a bit, youíll more or less find it here. Even the mythology surrounding him somewhat recalls what Craven cooked up in New Nightmare, as Englund is once again this ancient force thatís terrorized civilizations for generations.
Inkubus certainly has more ideas than execution--itís overstuffed, clunky, and often poorly-shot, but itís at least somewhat lively, which his more than I can say about the Elm Street redux. Iíd rather see Englund do a take-off of Freddy (sans makeup) instead of revisit Jackie Earle Haleyís stilted dime-store incarnation of the character, even if the latter was in the more impressively staged production. On that note, I couldnít help but chuckle with approval when the nice girl at the video store noticed that Inkubus stars ďthe guy that played Freddy Krueger,Ē which was a strangely comforting gesture that assured me that people will indeed be saying that about Englund forever. I ended up paying about $2.50 to rent Inkubus, a fair price considering the DVD is bare bones and packs a merely adequate presentation. Like many of the films Englund has featured in lately, Inkubus doesnít exactly deserve him, but it deserves a look because of him. Rent it!
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