Incantation was recommended to me by a handful of folks over on Facebook last month when I was fishing around for some new horror viewing ideas. I think people were correct in their confidence that this would right up my weirdo-dream logic-inexplicable terrifying happenings- alley!
I think the one-sentence summation would be something like “a found-footage film in which a woman and all those around her are beset by misfortune after she violates a religious taboo.” That’s more or less it, and I feel like the more you learn about what’s happening, the less likely you are to understand any of it…somewhat parallel to the story, where the more you learn about the curse, the less likely you are to survive it.
Six years earlier, Li Ronan accompanies her boyfriend and a mutual friend to a remote mountain village whose cult-like inhabitants are engaged in bizarre rituals involving a strange deity. Ostensibly filming it for their ghostbusters YouTube channel or whatever, the guys disrespectfully stomp through the village’s sacred spaces, including an off-limits evil tunnel, and while Li Ronan isn’t quite doing anything wrong, she shouldn’t be there, to begin with…and by the end of the evening, she’s the only one among the trio left standing to shoulder the curse that comes of their sacrilege. Oh, and while she was in the village, she realized she was pregnant.
Going forward a few years, Li Ronan is collecting her daughter from a foster care facility, to bring her back home again. I’m not sure whether she was deemed unfit at the time or she gave the child up willingly, for the child’s own protection, but we follow her awkwardly greeting her daughter Do-Do and bringing her back to the apartment…where things immediately begin to fall apart. Eerie disturbances occur, spookynoises are heard, Do-Do is seeing unsettling things, and for a time it almost seems like the child might even be possessed. Things are spiraling out of control from the moment they reunite.
Between the disturbing visuals and disjointed story and the “is she an abusive/unhinged parent or is there really something supernatural happening?” I spent a lot of this movie being scared, but of… what, exactly… I could not rightly tell you. Much of Incantation’s premise hinges on the dual nature of things like blessings and curses, and how they are intertwined, and toward the end we learn that what we believed Li Ronan was telling us, wasn’t quite the truth of it. I actually struggled with a sense of betrayal as the film ended.
You know what would also be a betrayal of trust? If I did not tell you that although it’s not a huge part of the story…if you suffer from trypophobia (DON’T look it up, it’s basically an aversion to clusters of small holes) you need to consider yourself hardcore forewarned.
Incantation is apparently the highest-grossing Taiwanese horror film and can be found on Netflix.
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