A disquieting deep dive into found footage
When an area is called “The Place You Must Not Enter”–this is just a thought–but maybe you shouldn’t enter it. That’s too tall an order for “The Ghostbusters,” however.
In Taiwanese horror film Incantation, Li Ronan (Tsai Hsuan-yen) is one of three videographers who use film to bust paranormal myths. But when the group encounters a mysterious cult guarding a secret tunnel, their exploration has dangerous ramifications for those close to Ronan–especially her daughter, Dodo (Huang Sin-ting).
Directed by Kevin Ko and co-written by Ko and Chang Che-wei, Incantation is a mockumentary horror movie presented as Ronan’s found footage. What starts as a wholesome video project to chronicle Ronan’s reunion with her daughter, whom she gave up six years ago, soon morphs into a chilling paranormal investigation.
Something sinister affects Dodo. Ronan’s camera catches glimpses of horrific events, the footage often so brief that we don’t know what to be scared of. But we at least know to be scared. As frustrating as the ambiguous nature of this style of filming can be, it still manages to be engrossing. And that’s not just because you’ll be straining your eyes in order to catch every gruesome detail. The way Ronan frames her videos makes the viewing an interactive ordeal. We’re watching, she tells us, to help save her daughter. “How” is a mystery that will unfold throughout the course of the film.
It’s a bit of a clumsy journey to get to the truth at the heart of Incantation. Presenting the story as a mystery to be solved, Ko’s and Chang’s approach is to display vague (albeit disquieting) allusions to a horrifying curse… only to resolve the questions they raise almost all at once, in a substantial information dump. They save their reveals with a clever twist, however–driven and elevated by Incantation’s permeating and emotional family drama.
The essence of this heart-stopping Taiwanese horror cuts deeper than a supernatural curse. It’s in the tender exploration of a mother’s love for her daughter. The loving relationship between Ronan and Dodo and the threat of their estrangement add a whole new dimension to the terror of Incantation, making the film a unique, if somewhat amateur, entry to the horror genre.
Read More: Incantation Ending Explained
Verdict - 7.5/10