The directorial debut of writer/actor/producer Jude S. Walko, THE INCANTATION is an updated version of the old Gothic formula we fondly remember from the days of Hammer, Amicus and countless continental production houses. But how well do creepy old mansions, sinister clerics and odd figures in the distance integrate into the world of cell phones and selfie sticks?
Lucy (Sam Valentine) travels to France for the funeral of an uncle she’s never met. She’s confused when the cab driver refuses to help her with her bags when he sees where he’s taken her, Things get worse when her mother isn’t there to meet her, but the odd and very abrasive Vicar of Borley (Jude S. Walko) is. With an appearance better suited for a Greek or Russian Orthodox cleric and a list of rules for Lucy, he’s certainly an ominous figure.
After the funeral, she meets J.P. (Dylan Kellogg) the cemetery’s cute gravedigger who she hits it off with. Another stranger, in the form of insurance salesman Abel Baddon (Dean Cain, LOIS AND CLARK, URBAN DECAY), turns up. As J.P. tells her about her family’s less than pristine past she begins having strange dreams and visions. Is something evil afoot, or is it all in her mind?
THE INCANTATION is a slow burn of a film. Forgoing blood and jump scares for atmosphere and suspense. That’s not always easy to do under sunny skies though, and the film loses it’s mood a few times before hitting its stride. Once it’s secret is finally revealed the film moves towards it’s creepy and unsettling finale.
On the other hand, the film stops to let characters deliver expository monologues a couple of times too often. And a hidden door is found much too easily. Worst of all though, Dean Cain’s character couldn’t be more obviously named unless he was playing Louis Cypher. It is nice to see him play against type though.
As much a dark fairy tale as it is a horror film, THE INCANTATION benefits from the judicious use of odd angles, time-lapse photography and trick editing to produce an otherworldly feel. Thankfully Walko resists the urge to overuse these techniques and lessen their impact something too many others have done.
Despite its flaws, THE INCANTATION works for the most part and is an effective film. Credit to the director for his visual sense and making a promising debut. And to Valentine for an excellent central performance despite a lack of experience.
Gravitas Ventures will release THE INCANTATION to VOD on July 31st.