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INCARNATION ***

Directed by Filip Kovacevic. Starring Stojan Djordjevic, Dacha Vidosavljevic, Stan Zendor, Dejan Cicmilovic, Tihomir Stanic. Serbia 2016 82 minutes Certificate: 15

Released on DVD by Matchbox Films on May 21st 2018

Belgrade-born writer / director Filip Kovacevic makes an assured feature debut with this taut, fast-paced thriller reviving the perennial thriller theme of the amnesiac frantically attempting to piece together the disparate puzzle-pieces that led to his current life-threatening predicament. Here, the inevitable echoes of MEMENTO are welded together with a central gimmick inspired by the ever-influential GROUNDHOG DAY and the paranoid one-man-peril set-ups of nifty city-based genre films like PHONE BOOTH.

 

The charismatic Stojan Djordjevic has to carry most of the movie by himself and spends most of it fleeing from assailants through an unnamed city. He wakes up in the middle of the city square with no memory of how he got there or even his own name. All he knows is that four armed, suited men in white plastic masks want him dead – and succeed in fulfilling this ambition on a recurring basis. Every time he dies at their hands, he wakes up to a reset version of the same situation – but with the bonus that he retains the knowledge of his previous pre-death investigations.

 

Djordjevic hurls through the city streets, in and out of hospitals and mysterious buildings while the faceless assassins are never far away as cryptic numerical clues combine with narratively significant secondary characters to unravel the mystery. The familiar loss of identity theme is eclipsed by the film’s highly charged exploitation of key 21st century fears -notably the scenes in which crowds of screaming city folk flee in terror from strangers indiscriminately shooting at them. The location shooting is particularly impressive given the film’s modest budgetary roots, adding real production value.  .

 

This slick, gripping picture sustains significant tension from the get-go though, perhaps inevitably, after such a gangbusters build-up, the ultimate reveal is a little underwhelming. Still, all credit to Kovacevic for his technical skill and keeping us involved in a story that may have suited a shorter format (a la THE TWILIGHT ZONE) even better.

 

Steven West

 

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 © 2000 - 2018