The Invoking (2013/14)

Not to toot our own horns here at the DW, but we get a lot of requests to review various folks independent films. And while we certainly appreciate it (keep them coming!), it always makes our collective stomachs drop a bit when we read any description of a film that starts "(Insert Name here) and four friends travel to a deserted whatever....blah, blah, blah." I say this, not to bitch, but to illustrate the fact that 75% of the films folks reach out and ask us to review have their descriptions begin this way. So when we came across The Invoking sitting in the DW inbox and read the description, a collective groan sprang forth from the DW offices. Yet another film with stupid 30 somethings playing 20 somethings who, if logic dictated actions would drive right back down the driveway once they got a look at the place they've arrived at. Luckily for us The Invoking (FKA Sader Ridge) is a damn fine film, that falls into some of the cliched "cabin in the woods" traps but navigates it's way through them rather deftly.

Samantha (is every female protagonist in indie films named Sam or Samantha these days?) has recently inherited an old house and plot of land from her aunt. She gathers three of her best friends for an exploratory vacation of her new property. Once there they are greeted by Eric, the properties caretaker and Samanthas close childhood friend, or so he claims. Sam has no memory of him, despite his insistence that she used to live on the property with her parents until they sent her away when she was five. As Sam and her friends begin to settle into the cabin old wounds between them begin to open and even older wounds being to open inside of Sam.

Shot in a week for only 11,000 dollars (!), writer/director/producer/caterer (maybe) Jeremy Berg crafts a film that looks like it should have or could have cost 50 times that much. The film looks wonderful. The location is perfect for the story he is trying to tell. Unless, like me, you had done a bit of research on the film, there is no way way in hell that you would ever know that Berg and company were faced with such limitation.

As a film, The Invoking takes a while to get moving. You need to have patience.while Berg spends the first half of the film setting up the last 25 minutes or so. But the wait is definitely worth it. Where as other scripts and writers will seek to get the action started while sacrificing character development, Berg, taking a page from the Ti West playbook, does the opposite. He gives the interpersonal relationships time to grow so when shit really starts to go down, it actually means something.

As with all low budget independent films the acting in The Invoking is really hit or miss. D'Angelo Midlili is really the anchor of the film as caretaker Eric. His understated performance is by far the best performance in the film. The films overall quality seems to improve simply when he's on screen. He actually makes the performances of the other actors better. Like I said earlier, the other performances run the usual indie film gambit from "acceptable" to "really bad." Andi Norris' Sadie is supposed to be a bit awkward and quirky, but her delivery, especially early in the film, is so bad it's off-putting and almost brings the rest of the film down.

Acting quibbles aside, The Invoking (not for anything but Sader Ridge is a far superior title - just sayin') is a tight little psychological thriller. It's not your traditional horror film per say. If you are looking for copious amounts of blood and gore look elsewhere, But if you are willing to be patient, let a film breathe for a little while, then The Invoking might just be up your alley.

The Invoking will be hitting DVD on February 18th of 2014. Look for it and help support some pretty good independent horror.

***1/2 stars out of *****

Thanks for Reading and "Enjoy Every Sandwich"

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