This review was originally published on March 26, 2013 and referenced the original title of Sader Ridge; Review has been edited to reflect the title change…
Samantha (Trin Miller) has recently inherited a home from her biological aunt (Sam was adopted at age five), and she heads out to the property with her three college friends Mark (Brandon Anthony), Caitlin (Andi Norris) and Roman (Josh Truax). Upon meeting the property’s caretaker, Eric (D’Angelo Midili), a young man who remembers spending time with Sam when they were both children, it becomes clear that there’s more to Sam’s past than she is aware. As the group settles into exploring around the property for the next few days, personal dynamics and conflicts shift, made all the more disturbing by the fact that Sam is starting to lose her grasp on what is or isn’t real, seeing and hearing things that may not actually be there.
The Invoking falls into psychological horror territory, but it sets itself up in a more traditional horror sense: small group of friends, remote locate, mysterious past, creepy caretaker, etc. In this way, the film keeps you on your toes a bit, as you realize that everything is there for this to get brutal and classically horrific. The film mostly takes a more subtle path, however you’re never too far from the possibility of violence.
On the plus side, the film is photographed wonderfully, and makes great use of its main location, a sprawling property with hills and just enough wilderness to be spooky. Additionally, the pace of the film, while at times could be considered slow, actually moves ahead at a consistent clip, not lingering in any area longer than necessary.
As far as the sound mix goes, there are times when it’s polished so perfectly it feels out of place. An early stop for the group on the way to Sam’s inherited home reveals a sequence that sounds massaged too far; you get that false and awkward ADR feel. Overall, though, the audio is crisp, and I guess I’d rather it err on the side of being understandable than the alternative.
When it comes to the film’s performances, it truly is Trin Miller and D’Angelo Midili’s showcase. While the other three actors have their moments, the real meat and power of the piece comes not just from Miller and Midili’s interactions with each other, but also their presence in general. Midili particularly steals most of the scenes he’s in, often by doing little more than being mysteriously “off,” giving a threatening vibe even when he’s doing his best not to make eye contact with anyone.
Which leads to my main criticism of the film, focused on the characters of Mark, Caitlin and Roman. While they do have their own personal conflicts and the film gives enough of a glimpse into their pasts to give them a bit more depth, their character purpose and individual payoffs don’t match the time given to them. Again, they each get enough of a character to serve a small purpose in the film, but mostly they seem to just take up a bunch of time that could be better spent figuring out what’s going on with Sam and Eric. For the most part, none of them behave in any way that is all that likeable; Mark is a dick, Roman is a whiney mess with headphones perma-affixed to his head and Caitlin is generally annoying. This might be the reason Eric, for all is strangeness, is suddenly the most appealing of the group.
In the end, The Invoking is a quality psychological horror film that gives enough hints along the way to help you figure out where it is going, though it never entirely tips its hand as to how far it will go, or exactly how everything will wrap up. So there’s the comfort of the familiar, with just enough of a mystery to keep it from falling into “been there, done that” territory.
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