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Incantation Review – IGN

Incantation Review – IGN

Incantation debuts on Netflix July 8, 2022.

Horror movies taken with “found footage” techniques are usually designed to be more disturbing than frightening. Given their tendency to display horrific images in a (hopefully) realistic way, they captivate by making it easier for the audience to stop their disbelief. Netflix’s Incantation is doing a decent job in this regard; the eerie atmosphere and convincing performances lift what would otherwise be an ongoing function.

Directed by Kevin Ko, Incantation follows the story of Li Ronan (Tsai Hsuan-yen) as she fights to protect her daughter Dodo (Huang Sin-ting) from an ancient curse. Partly invoked by a misunderstood desire to explore a forbidden area, Ronan’s life takes a turn for the worse after visiting a secluded mountain village. Camcorders, mobile phones, security tapes – video recordings show horrific “accidents” in abundance. Death looms over everyone, but Dodo’s fate is particularly disturbing – so much so that her untimely passing can be confused with a preferred outcome.

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Spell depicts the length a mother would go to regain care for her child. Although the first conflict stems from a supernatural encounter, it is the need to provide a stable home in the midst of personal unrest that anchors the film thematically. It would be difficult for someone to establish a relationship after a long period of separation, and that is before considering whether being a parent was the right choice given the circumstances; Is Ronan’s devotion to her daughter a reflection of her unconditional love or an overwhelming sense of guilt? There is a humanizing element here that turns out to be relatable even during the wildest events.

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This relativity is further established by segments that are empty of fear. Tsai Hsuan-yen shines like Ronan, her situation really became thanks to a strong achievement. However, it is the worldly moments that really sell her character. These brief cases are intimate in nature and tend to provide important help information that colors later events. Some revelations only have an effect due to how well Incantation’s characters are developed. The same applies to the rest of the cast. Huang Sin-ting effectively portrays Dodo while Kao Ying-hsuan, who plays the caregiver Chi-Ming, is absolutely believable. There is no weak performance regardless of how much or how little screen time they get.

Kevin Ko, meanwhile, is conscious of Incantation’s pace. Every bit of driving time is used to develop a fully realized curse; the film is more Noroi: The Curse and less The Blair Witch Project. This approach has mixed results. While highlighting the mystery gives us time to get in touch with the cast, the slow pace cancels out some of the terrifying scenes. A routine trip to a restaurant can follow a disturbing display of body scare. It is also the frequent clips to different time periods that occur just before or after scary scenes, leaving us wanting or even worse, confused. Of course, this is not to say that we should not get some respite after witnessing something violent; it’s just that these tone changes sometimes betray what is meant to be a frightening experience.

Fortunately, Incantation compensates for this with an absolutely terrible atmosphere, and plays on the anxiety associated with the unknown. It even refers to this fear by suggesting that knowing more about Ronan’s situation would lead to a person’s death; the unknown aspects of the curse, when they are finally revealed, literally cause harm. This means that most characters (and to some extent the audience) are kept in the dark as much as possible. It creates a restless feeling that lingers through most of the film. Suddenly there is talk of the connection that was developed between Ronan and the viewer.

The unsettling nature of Incantation also helps when it comes to logic-based inconsistencies. A bulging score during an emotional scene, strange camera changes or a character’s relentless footage despite almost dying – basically all the things that would make Incantation an actual movie and not “found footage” – is something forgivable when it still manages to be as captivating as it is.

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