The Incantation

A young American girl has the chance of a lifetime to visit her ancestors’ castle in the south of France, only to find that her family is hiding deep, dark secrets about their nefarious past, far away from prying eyes.

The entitled, social media debutante is a character type we love to hate. At the beginning of the new horror film The Incantation, we are given ample cause to fall into the same pattern of loathing as we see Lucy (Sam Valentine) arriving at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. She drops some conversational French to the taxi driver and asks to be given a selfie-worthy tour of the city before being dropped off at her distant relative’s estate. Everything is going magnifique until the cabbie tries to warn her about her destination. Of course, she ignores his nuanced concerns. She’s American.

We arrive at the family Maison to the wooden welcome of Mary the Chambermaid (Beatrice Orro). There are, of course, areas of the home under renovation and hence forbidden. We next meet the skulky yet ceremonial Vicar (Jude S. Walko) who reminds our petulant protagonist of her lineage and the reason for her entire visit; her distant uncle’s funeral. Following the said funeral, Lucy meets charming grave-digger Jean-Pierre (Dylan Kellogg) in one of the film’s few chemistry-charged moments.

“…only to find that her family is hiding deep, dark secrets about their nefarious past, far away from prying eyes.”

It is well into the movie that we finally meet the headliner, Abel (Dean Cain). A traveling salesman, Abel offers life insurance and asks to come into the unwelcoming mansion to make his pitch. Against estate protocol, Lucy brings him in, and they have a lovely esoteric discussion. Up to this point, things are clearly telegraphed as mysterious, even dangerous. As the audience, we still can’t decide if we should be on Lucy’s side or hoping she learns a lesson from her arrogance as the signs of danger swirl around her.

The Incantation is an overly serious, piece of modern gothic horror that tries hard to entertain. The blood, sweat, tears, and every other conceivable fluid that writer-director Jude S. Walko expended on this piece is evident. Unfortunately, the movie is undone by a number of elements, not the least of which are the profoundly bad performances and stilted dialogue.

“…an overly serious, piece of modern gothic horror that tries hard to entertain.”

I will immediately defend the stunning location. A French estate, complete with terraces, gardens, dining halls, and rich scenic value. To the team behind the camera, I will also give props to the way they photographed the aged cemetery, the countryside, and the city of Paris itself. Anyone brave enough to pull into the roundabout at Arc De Triomphe deserves a medal.

The Incantation summons little more than Dean Cain chewing the scenery, Walko acting mysterious, and Valentine using every opportunity to make us hope she finds her end or learns a lesson. Then there is Orro. An actor whose performance is so wooden it borders on the sublime. All of that said, we are given a relatively predictable story of ancestry catching up with modern members of the family with little to remember afterward.

The Incantation (2018) Written and directed by Jude S. Walko. Starring Dean Cain, Sam Valentine, Jude S. Walko, Dylan Kellogg.

4 out of 10 stars

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