Humberto Rosa and Thairon Mendes’ found footage horror Invoked is a surprisingly effective trip into familiar territory. Rosa’s script, co-written by Aaron Gibson, is short and sweet, hits all the bases of a typical haunted house horror, but still packs a punch.
Opening with a police investigation into disturbances at an isolated island hostel in Ireland, Rosa sets up ‘The Morning After the Night Before’; trashing the old hideaway and leaving silly spooky nonsense behind. By the 2 minute mark, Invoked has found an abandoned camera and switched narrative tracks to a group of giggly teens. They arrive on the island, flirt and party, then fuck about with a Ouija board and deal with the awful consequences.
After a poorly worded introductory passage, your standards won’t be high. Better films have cocked up the found footage format by investing in lazy filmmaking. Granted, there’s some of that here, but it doesn’t mess up the atmosphere of the film as badly as it could have. In part this is thanks to a great sense of how to tell a story, and what kinds of ideas to insinuate. Rosa and Gibson construct a terrifying tale of a nearby mass criminal grave; a place where the bodies are bound hands-behind-backs with rocks stuffed in the mouth in order to keep the dead in their graves. Spooky legends are only half the formula though, the other half of Invoked ‘s success is its cast.
Much of the emphasis is on a group of real live human characters with believable banter, and that makes the film better than it probably has a right to be. Simple character dynamics really pull off thanks to the talent on screen, there’s no one woeful on the cast. When the Ouija board goes apeshit and starts revealing the dark heart of the island, things get genuinely uncomfortable, the group start to push and pull against each other, then, a second later, they’re all getting naked and heading to bed. Similarly, the one girl who seems madly precautious and utterly terrified of her situation is the first one to start pushing for a Graveyard adventure. Spontaneous behaviour and stupid reasoning are a bit weak and operate on the same tedious lines as the spooky woman with long black hair.
There’s something really honest about Rosa and Mendes’ Invoked, something lovably amateurish in its meddling kids: a séance whilst smoking a joint, a gory injury touted as a great opportunity for a ‘new cover photo’, there’s a sly smile under much of the film, but not enough to leapfrog over plain silly writing. It builds to a messy climax, the kind you expect from a cheap thrill, complete with magic black smoke and plenty hiding in dark corners. It’s often chilling, but not good enough to be memorable.
Dir: Humberto Rosa & Thairon Mendes
Stars: Patrick Murphy, Ciara Rose Burke, Lynn Larkin, Craig Grainger, Aaron Gibson