Exclusive Review: THE INVOKING (2013){0}

There used to be a TV show with a theme song that went like this:

“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have: The Facts of Life.”

One could easily remove the word “life” from the end of that lyric and replace it with “world of micro-budget horror cinema.” In other words, when it comes to super-low-budget cinema, it pays to forgive the rough spots, focus on the strong points, and give the filmmakers a little extra leeway here and there.

The new indie thriller The Invoking (formerly entitled Sader Ridge) has some of those rough spots, and it doesn’t take a seasoned film critic to notice that the premise is almost painfully familiar (at the outset, anyway) and that one or two of the performances are sincerely amateurish – but then the movie keeps rolling and one notices several intangible little details that are clear evidence of filmmakers with a clue or two: a moody score, some melancholy establishing shots, a sly line of dialogue here and there.

But to start with, here’s what we got: pretty young Sam (Trin Miller) has inherited an isolated house from a distant relation. (Like I said: this isn’t exactly new stuff.) She brings three friends – an annoying one, a whiny one, and a bully – to visit the house, only to learn that the unexpectedly young caretaker is actually a childhood friend that Sam cannot remember. In fact, Sam can’t remember a blessed thing about the house, her aunt, or the (dun dun dunnn) secret hidden tragedies that occurred 20 years earlier. (Hint: the caretaker guy knows a lot.)

To say that The Invoking improves as it progresses would be an understatement. The whole “woman inherits a house” structure is about 100 years old at this point, which is not to say it can still be used to strong effect, but (obviously) a film runs the risk of coming across as familiar or redundant if they tread such a well-traveled path. Fortunately, director Jeremy Berg and co-writers Matt Medisch and John Portanova seem to find their feet once the quartet arrive at the house, meet up with caretaker Eric (D’Angelo Midili), and start running poor Sam through the wringer. Our heroine is plagued by visions that could mean anything from mental instability to supernatural visitation, and the film gets considerably more compelling once Sam’s past and present start battling for position.

Perhaps a bit too dry or sedate for a Saturday night sleepover sort of horror experience, The Invoking does benefit from at least two performances that are worth enjoying (Miller and Midili); a calm but welcome amount of attention paid to things like mood, tone, music, and atmosphere; and a plot that starts out as the epitome of predictable and gradually grows more novel as we move on.


Scott Weinberg (@scottEweinberg)

THE INVOKING is available to stream or download in the UK at http://thehorrorshow.tv/movie-display/invoking-aka-sader-ridge