Immanence, the new film from director Kerry Bellessa and co-writer Joshua Oram, the team who gave us Amber Alert, begins on a dark and abandoned boat. As we hear the search and rescue team searching for the crew we see a silent figure appear and then disappear. Then the film flashes back to the start of the story.
Naomi (Summer Bellessa, Funny Thing About Love) and her team are looking for proof of extraterrestrial life. When a meteorite lands somewhere in The Bermuda Triangle and starts emitting strange signals they think they may have discovered what they were looking for.
They rent a boat owned by Davis (Eugene Byrd, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, 8 Mile) and captained by a man named Jonah (Michael Beach, Aquaman, Midnight in the Switchgrass), a name which should have had them running in the other direction. But Naomi, Suzu (Asenneth del Toro, Sunny Daze), Roman ( Anthony Ruivivar, Tropic Thunder, Starship Troopers) and Harper (Kasia Pilewicz, Red Butterfly) climb on board and set sail.
The opening minutes of Immanence are loaded with religious imagery. A fake exorcism scam is exposed, Naomi’s extremely devout mother lectures her about Jesus, and as she makes her way to the boat Naomi removes the cross around her neck and stuffs it in her purse. So it should also be no surprise when the man with the biblical name turns out to see the hand of God, or Satan, in this rather than aliens.
Between Naomi’s response to her mother’s religious talk and Roman’s mocking of Jonah when he says that whatever is out there could be a sign from God I had a bad feeling I knew where Immanence was heading. The fact that early versions of the poster bore the tagline ‘The search for God is an open door for the Devil’ didn’t do anything to ease my fears.
By the time the boat’s fish trap bring up a live pig and Jonah opens his bible to the story of Jesus casting evil spirits out of a possessed man and into a herd of swine there was no doubt, Immanence isn’t so much interested in scaring the audience as it is in preaching to it. And doing so in a very heavy handed way.
And then in the last act Immanence (Jamie McShane, Thor, Argo) appears from out of nowhere. A literal red eyed devil come to tell us that he and God really do exist and we’re a bunch of fools for not believing. And, of course, he has an offer for them. Or at least some of them.
If Bellessa and Oram had toned it down a bit Immanence might have been a fairly decent film. There are some creepy moments such as when they investigate an empty version of their own boat that pulls up beside them.
There are also a few good jumps mixed in, as well as several moments that reminded me of Event Horizon, a film that did a much better job of walking the line between scientific and religious horror and Dark Side of the Moon, an earlier and more explicitly religious piece of horror in space. That one even managed to work The Devil’s Triangle into its plot.
If you don’t mind being beaten over the head by the film’s message, or if you like this kind of overt sermonizing you might find Immanence entertaining. But I want my horror films scary, with any message worked into the plot. Here the plot is secondary to the message and the scares are lacking.