“THE INVOKING” (aka “SADER RIDGE”; Movie Review)
THE INVOKING (formerly SADER RIDGE) is a small film, but it’s a good film. A very, very good film. Unlike some contemporary indie horror cinema, writer/director Jeremy Berg isn’t concerned with bashing his audience over the noggin with stimulation or easy smut. Rather he hooks you, roasts you slowly and then, when you least expect it, sticks a very big fork in you. In other words, this is thoughtful, restrained and artfully rendered stuff that doesn’t treat its audience like, y’know, blubbering baboons.
Not to say THE INVOKING is attempting to reinvent any sort of wheel here. It’s not. In fact, its set up is so simple and tried it trades in cliché. In it, a pretty young woman (Trin Miller, pictured above with co-star D’Angelo Midili) gets wind of the fact that she’s inherited a big, old remote house in the California countryside and takes a bunch of her archetypal pals to scope it out. Before you can say “Overlook,” the gang start to get a bit… off. As fantasy blurs with reality and the friends go more than a bit mad, the slow boiling stew eventually leads to rather chilling reveal, one that isn’t easy to shake.
THE INVOKING is a film of few peaks but when they do happen, their impact is like a thundering crash in the dark at 3 a.m. The real fright in the picture is just getting lost in its dense, detailed, often beautiful atmosphere. Right from the opening, Berg treats us to a virtual slideshow of serene imagery; still, almost photographic, pictures of the countryside and surrounding landscape of the house. Though those pictures on their own represent no threat, it’s the length they stay on screen, coupled with some very ominous music swelling on the soundtrack, which brings menace. Berg knows how to create dread just by holding shots past the point of comfort and it works throughout the movie, carefully controlling and manipulating the viewer.
But the problem with THE INVOKING is that sadly, many viewers won’t have the patience or interest in letting themselves sink into it. Said problem will be compounded by the performances which, outside from lead heroine Miller, are the kind of wonky, under-rehearsed turns that earmark many low-budget genre films. For those more disciplined, and in the case of the few flaws, forgiving horror fans, THE INVOKING is something special. A slow, scary, ambiguous descent into the darkest part of the human psyche and one assembled by filmmakers who remember that what you don’t see almost always trumps what you do.