PrintE-mail Written by John Townsend


Infernal, from writer and director Bryan Coyne, draws a mix of reactions whilst viewing. There are moments of inspiration, when an inherent creepiness seems to seep like a mist out of the screen, chilling you in your seat. There are also times when the only response, reluctant yet tangible, is a knowing chuckle. A mixed bag indeed.

Nathan (Ostroff) and Sophia (Adair) are a couple with some initial underlying issues. The first time we meet them, Sophia is trying to find the correct words to explain to a partner she seems to have a lack of faith in that she is pregnant. This unplanned family development means she needs to get married in accordance with her religious upbringing and strong beliefs. Nathan, while struggling for the words to express his true feelings (and we can all guess what they are), complies and proposes with as much insincere romance as he can muster.

Fast forward a few years, via a slightly awkward wedding and a volatile birth, and the unhappy couple have Imogene (Koerner), a child lovingly described repeatedly by her mother as “broken” and who seems to be experiencing some form of unexplained supernatural influence which threatens to destroy the family completely.

On the plus side, Infernal is a film of interesting observational complexity built around a dysfunctional young couple whose decaying and destructive relationship contrasts harshly against the curious and lovingly burgeoning one their daughter is experiencing with forces unknown. As Nathan and Sophia struggle to find an agreed way to raise their daughter, and deal with the issues she is clearly suffering from, they focus less and less on the most important things in front of them and descend into expletive-fuelled aggression with increased regularity. These moments are harshly realistic and uncomfortable to observe, and there is an unavoidable, slowly germinating sense of dread that is palpable as you sense unfortunate events are just around the corner.

This unease is partly down to the growing relationship that Imogene is developing with the monster in her closet (literally). Children are always creepy in films of this nature, something of an open goal if you will, and while Infernal is no different in this respect Koerner is superb as a child with a confused sense of reliance and influenced by something she doesn’t understand. The starkness of her relationship with her parents is reflected in the protectiveness of her unnatural one, and this new dependence leads latterly to moments of extreme violence and brutality.

There are problems, though. The found footage premise that Coyne has chosen never really convinces, drawing stylistically from both the fixed camera style of the Paranormal Activity franchise and also the nausea inducing shaky-cam from countless other films in the genre. The flaws are prominent in that there seems to be an abundance of static cameras that are recording everything, yet nothing is being watched, and the shaky-cam is so shaky at times as to be unwatchable. There are also moments of outright preposterousness that don’t fit with the Poltegeist-esque tone of the rest of the film and serve no purpose other than to distance the viewer from the story.

Performance-wise, the strength of Koerner’s depiction of a troubled and misunderstood child embarrasses some of those around her, with many of the supporting cast slipping into easy and lazy stereotypes. It’s not that they’re necessarily bad; it’s just that they’re not good enough.

Infernal is a decent film that suffers from too much ambition. Coyne’s understanding of the horror genre is clear and there are knowing references a-plenty, but his bold concept needed greater refinement and softness of touch to fulfil its clear promise. There is a genuinely scary and chilling film at the heart of Infernal just trying to get out. The shame is that it doesn’t quite succeed.

Special Features: TBC

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