Infernal is intended as a found footage film, with the premise being that a young couple’s daughter is troubled in ways unclear; a therapist has told them to record all her movements and their interactions with her, and each other, everywhere, at all times, regardless of what else is happening around them. Why this will help the child overcome her issues is only vaguely explained, almost certainly using the word ‘contrived’.
To avoid lingering doubt, Infernal is a disgrace. The opening scene beautifully lays out the rest of the film so let me describe it to you to save you having to scratch your eyes out 15 minutes in. Nathan (Andy Ostroff) and Sophia (Heather Adair) are unpacking boxes in a new home. They talk and talk and talk about their relationship for what seems like 10 minutes. She uses the words “I think that we need to get married” to tell him she’s pregnant. He wavers, but eventually accepts it and proposes towards the end of this long, long conversation.
And just as this tedious conversation ends with the couple hugging, a hideous noise blares into the camcorder’s microphone, a crucifix hanging on the wall slowly rotates into inversion, and there’s an earthquake that’s never mentioned again.
What follows is a succession of dreadfully dull melodramas about the increasingly parlous state of the couple’s relationship after their child is born, interspersed with risible special effects and plot points that need exorcism more than the girl does. A three-minute conversation about whether the mother-in-law should come round to look after the annoyingly named ‘Imogene’ will be followed by the dad wandering around confused by unexplained events, looking at cameras, wondering why…just why, I suppose, like the rest of us.
The tried and tested demonic offspring template is run through with the originality of a Scooby Doo cartoon, and about as much ‘horror’. Things go bump when no-one’s looking while the child remains entirely unperturbed. There’s evil laughter and the obligatory priest laying a hand on the girl’s head before telling everyone disaster is upon the world. Demonic dogs turn up from nowhere for no reason. We limp slowly towards what we assume will be the devil taking over the world using an innocent little girl, because that’s the most logical way for hell to take us all. At one point the dad says “What is this mist? Is that sulphur?” and I came perilously close to kicking my TV to death.
The found footage aspect simply doesn’t work. The child goes missing and they run around with hand-held cameras trying to find her, managing to undermine whatever dramatic aspect they were scrabbling for. At one point the father is followed up the stairs by someone filming and yet all the other characters are already upstairs. And why are they filming themselves in the opening scene, before they’ve found out they have a dodgy daughter? They just film themselves? But why?
Unexpectedly, director Bryan Coyne chooses to reveal the demon itself a bit over halfway through. It’s almost worth watching the movie just to witness this laughable creation gambolling about like Gollum without the budget, but it’s not. Be in no doubt: it’s not worth it.
Yet somebody’s going to buy it, that’s the most incredible aspect of Infernal. Someone is going to see a trailer, or the blurb on a website, or even just a poster, and they’re going to think “That looks like the film for me.”
This is not the film for you. This is not the film for anyone. If you find your hand reaching slowly towards the discount DVD rack in your local charity shop, wobbling towards Infernal as though guided by some unseen force, please trust that the force in question is far more demonic that the demons in the movie and should be denounced and exorcised by buying a proper film instead, like Left Behind or Movie 43 or something.
Review by Chris Lockie
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Infernal is out on DVD on 24 August.