September 15, 2011

THE BIJOU @ TIFF: Midnight Madness – “The Incident”

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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As has been reported, there really was an ambulance outside the Ryerson Theatre in Toronto after the midnight premiere of Alexandre Courtes’ THE INCIDENT, there to rescue at least one person who had fainted during the movie.  Of course, this may just mean that Toronto Film Festival patrons have delicate sensibilities–an idea supported by the fact that someone also fainted at the premiere of Shame (apparently because of the film’s one violent scene, not the sex).  The Incident has some wild violence toward the end, but it’s not nearly scary or shocking enough to be a menace to the public health.

The movie is an extremely slow-burning thriller.  It’s one of those “based on a true story” things, set in Washington state in the late 1980s, where all 4 members of an aspiring rock band (Rupert Evans, Kenny Doughty, Joseph Kennedy, Richard Brake) work together in the kitchen of an asylum for the criminally insane.  We watch in much too painstaking detail (and even padded out, the picture only runs 85 minutes) as the buddies bicker, cook, plan for their next gig, talk about the menu and the food delivery schedule, and so on.  (We only see the personal life of one of the men, which in movie terms tells you something about how things will go once the violence begins.)  Courtes, working from a script by Jerome Fansten, is careful to show us all the security–the thick plexiglass, multiple locks and sliding metal doors that separate the kitchen, with its sharp objects, ovens and other potential weapons, from the inmates–and the muttering hostility of the patients.
Finally, when we’ve almost given up on the possibility of seeing people get butchered, a lightning storm fries the asylum’s electrical system, and every single inmate instantly becomes a homicidal maniac.  Even here, there are lots of scenes of our heroes plodding down one identical hallway after another, laboriously discovering that the doors are unlocked (except the ones that could get them out) and the guards are being slaughtered.  Finally, in the last reel or so, the lunatics start inventively murdering our heroes, and The Incident offers a few minutes of dirty thrills before it ends.
This is Courtes’ film debut after directing a host of music videos, but The Incident doesn’t even have the superficial slickness we associate with that kind of work; it’s cheap-looking and the gore, while sometimes very graphic, is low-rent.   The movie’s been acquired by IFC Midnight, which typically mounts a token theatrical release but concentrates on pay-per-view and cable, and that’s probably where this belongs–remember, if you see it on the channel guide, no need to tune in until the last half hour.  And don’t worry, it’s unlikely you’ll need to have the local hospital alerted that an ambulance might be necessary–unless you, too, are a film festival delicate flower.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."