In Alexandre Courtès’ film The Incident, the setting is Washington 1989 where we are introduced to a group of young band members that work in the kitchen of an insane asylum. The asylum is a concrete mass in the middle of nowhere. Its heavy doors and locked cages are highly monitored and every door, elevator and room requires either keys of a combination code. Patients in the asylum walk around like zombies and follow strict patterns in an effort to get fed at the fortified kitchen.
George (Rupert Evans), Max (Kenny Doughty) and Ricky (Joseph Kennedy) have just played a gig the night before when George is requested to come in early to accept a delivery of supplies for the kitchen. On little to no sleep, George makes his way to the compound and begins prepping for the daily meals when he is met by his fellow workers/band members.
But on this dark and rainy evening, a power outage throws the asylum into darkness. The patients are confused and get irritatingly irrational. All doors become unlocked and the monitoring station goes blind. George and the others are asked to assist in getting the excited patients back to their holding cells, but when two patients violently escape their escort, it begins a night of terror where the patients indeed run the asylum and where the guards and the young kitchen workers run from their lives from the horde of dangerously rabid maniacs.
Director Alexandre Courtes makes his feature film debut with The Incident after a fairly successful career directing music videos for bands such as U2 and The White Stripes. Courtes takes his time in unleashing the terrors that will be the mainstay of the film and uses the first 30 minutes to introduce us to the characters on both sides of the protective glass. Great effort is spent in giving us a tour of the facility and having the audience recognize the fortress as a heavily locked-down institution. We are also introduced to Harry Green (Richard Brake) – an asylum patient that George believes is the ringleader of the horde when the proverbial shit hits the fan.
When the patients begin to overrun the facility, the screenplay as written by S.Craig Zahler and Jérôme Fansten has the characters doing what is rarely evident in today’s horror films – he has the characters acting intelligently and making the right decisions (even if it comes with unexpected consequences). George and his surviving followers attempt to make their way to an office to find a phone. They also equip themselves with knives and other weapons and hide out when they find safe haven rather than wandering the halls as bait for the manic fish.
The film is complimented by the great atmosphere of the setting much like the abandoned asylum in Session 9 and without windows or doors leading to an escape, you can’t help but feel for the helplessness of the situation.
Courtes doesn’t spend time on the background of the inmates or the guards. It doesn’t matter. Hell is going to break loose and most people with either end up dead or running form impending death. Backstory does not matter.
There is a bit of a letdown in a twist implemented near the end of the film. The Incident was smart enough without having to try and M. Night itself and we think it would have had a more satisfying ending if things just ended as they were (thought to have) played out.
Still, The Incident is an above average horror film with a few good kills (ok, one) and one scene that had two audience members at the Toronto International Film Festival faint in recognition. It might not be the best asylum film ever (or even in the top 25), but it was refreshing to watching smart individuals acting smart when their lives were on the line and we appreciated the effort.