With the advent of the Found Footage genre, independent horror directors have really benefitted from a low-budget approach. While Jeremy Berg’s The Invoking (originally known as Sader Ridge) isn’t one of those ‘discovered on a camcorder after everyone’s disappeared’ chillers it does feature a cast of relative unknowns and a suitably sparse approach in terms of location and effect.
When she inherits a former family home, Samantha (Trin Miller) brings her friends along to take a look. Upon arriving they meet the suitably reclusive groundskeeper Eric (D’Angelo Midili) and suddenly some unwanted dreams and weird visions begin haunting Samantha. This family clearly has some dark unwanted business.
To its credit The Invoking doesn’t fool around with attempts at flashy visuals or over-familiar bogeymen stalking teens as they hunker down at a cabin in the woods, even though these teens are staying at a cabin, in the woods.
While the brief running time and well-constructed plot – making good use of some effective flashbacks – deserves praise, sadly Berg’s film is let down by some ineffective performances which threaten to either go a touch OTT or barely register as empathetic characters at all.
While Miller manages to anchor proceedings as the put-upon Sam, her friends Mark, Roman and Caitlin (Brandon Anthony, Josh Traux and Andi Norris) either struggle to adapt to the nuances a psychological thriller like this needs or do little to make a lasting impression.
Thankfully both Miller and Midili as the creepy caretaker (a touch too young for wise-eyed Scooby-Doo aficionados) manage to keep some level of intrigue and suspense going, and a suitably creepy, ambiguous ending means The Invoking manages to call on more than just cliché for inspiration.