EXPECTATIONS: An amiably old-school horror experience.
REVIEW: Another year, another paranormal horror story. Stories about hauntings and the paranormal have been told for thousands of years and of course, we are not going to see less of them any time soon. But it is not how original the story can be that defines whether it is actually good, it is the execution of said story.
In the case of The Incantation, this is writer/director/actor Jude S. Walko‘s directorial debut. Saddled with a low budget, a fresh-faced cast (bar Dean Cain) and sparse (yet beautiful) locations, will the film exceed its meager resources by providing a scary experience?
The Incantation starts off with Lucy Bellerose (Sam Valentine), a social media socialite arriving in Paris – en route to her recently deceased great uncle’s lavish (and of course, creepy) castle in the French countryside. Apparently, she’s to meet her mother there, attend the funeral services and then she will inherit the entire property.
When she arrives, she’s greeted by a chambermaid named Mary (Beatrice Orro), a local vicar (writer/director Jude S. Walko), a charismatic gravedigger named J.P. (Dylan Kellogg) and an imposing and well-spoken insurance salesman named Abel Baddon (Dean Cain). As Lucy explores the property, she begins to uncover some dark family secrets as well as uncover a few skeletons of her own in the closet.
Does The Incantation provide a creepy experience? Unfortunately, it’s quite a mixed bag for all involved. But like all mixed bags, there are positives, so let’s start off with those.
The French locations, whether its the castle, the valleys, the catacombs are all fantastic and add a sense of credibility and authenticity to the film, making it easier for the audience to be immersed into the story.
The same goes for the cinematography by Derek Street, which is well-done overall, as it captures the vistas and settings (particularly in scenes involving the young child running through the valleys of long grass) strikingly. Although, the drone cinematography for the scenic wide shots is quite overused.
Speaking of striking, there is Sam Valentine as Lucy Bellerose. She gives a good performance, balancing charisma and fear convincingly while executing the gradual character arc, which show simmering signs of depravity in her nature, quite well. If she comes across better material, she could go on to better things.
But unfortunately, this is where the better things end as we delve into the negatives. Director Walko tries to go for a slow-burn, old-fashioned type of storytelling, hearkening back to traditional narrative horror tropes that are rarely done today, like the old-fashioned scares like a door closing involuntarily, a sign of light in a dark area or even the sound of a cuckoo clock.
And while the positives mentioned earlier help the story to become more immersive, the attempts at scares become excessive and the script is quite convoluted to the point of tedium. All the goodwill becomes muted and the flaws begin to irk. And by the time the film reaches its conclusion, it becomes hard to muster any
The supporting cast is also quite uninspired. Dean Cain, who’s best known for the TV series Lois and Clark, has played roles of a dark nature before; mostly scumbag-like characters like in the crime-thriller Out of Time and the farcical comedy Rat Race. In the case of The Incantation, he sleepwalks through the part without lending any sense of verve to the part.
Walko himself is quite hard to take seriously, with his stilted line delivery and the same goes for Beatrice Orro and Dylan Kellogg, who plays the love interest as well as the “Basil Exposition” role. In fact, most of the fault lies now with the actors but the script, because the dialogue is both ridiculous and cringing.
Some scenes involve shoddy ADR (additional dialogue replacement), especially in one scene where Kellogg’s character (J.P, Jean-Pierre) is talking to a florist and most of the words that the actress delivers, her mouth and the delivery look mismatched.
Overall, The Incantation is a disappointment due to the inconsistent performances, problematic script and distracting production gaffes. But there is potential for something better, thanks to Sam Valentine‘s stellar performance, Derek Street‘s striking cinematography, the beautiful locations and Walko’s impassioned insistence on old-fashioned storytelling. The glass is half-empty or half-full. Pick your poison.
Note: There is a mid-credit scene.
The Incantation will be available OnDemand, DVD and Blu-Ray on 7/31.
Cast: Sam Valentine, Dean Cain, Dylan Kellogg, Beatrice Orro, Jude S. Walko
Director: Jude S. Walko
Screenwriters: Jude S. Walko