One part Paranormal Activity, one part Hereditary, the latest Netflix original horror film from Taiwan, Incantation begs the question of whether curses can be passed down from one generation to the next. Utilizing the found footage style, but in a fresh and unique manner, Incantation manages to tell a fragmented, but compelling story with genuine creepy scares.
The worst nightmare for any parent is to see their child suffering, and that’s exactly what Ruo-nan (Hsuan-yen Tsai) is experiencing with her young daughter Duo. Duo seems afflicted by some unseen supernatural force that leaves runic marks on her body and draws her into states of possession, while draining her life force. It’s all very horrific to watch a little girl endure all this.
Ruo-nan records everything in an attempt to document what is happening, hoping that it will help find a cure for her. All the while, we cut back and forth between the present and 6 years earlier, with Ruo-nan (who was pregnant with Duo at the time) was on a reality ghost hunting show. Between the present and the past, we see her invoking some sort of curse that later comes for her daughter in the present.
There’s a certain expected level of trauma that all children inherit from their parents. And while it mostly comes in the form of unintended consequences from people who did their best, sometimes it’s something far more sinister.
In a strange way, the supernatural curse that Duo inherits from Ruo-nan serves as a metaphor for the fears and anxieties we face in parenthood, and the perceived traumas we hope we don’t inflict on our children, but inevitably do so anyway.
For those familiar with the supernatural subgenre will know there’s a level of “you shouldn’t be messing with that”, and doing so is what causes so much suffering later on. It’s a harsh price to pay, but it’s an interesting cautionary tale about tampering with forces beyond our control, a theme ever present in demonic horror.
Less is More
The entire film is shot found footage style, but the camera never feels like it’s intruding or having to justify why it’s there. That’s such a common problem with the found footage subgenre, and Incantation manages to sidestep that completely.
You almost forget that’s the style because of how natural the camera movements feel and how the creepy supernatural element feels both subtle and terrifying. At no point is it trying to throw jump scares in your face, rather it builds a sense of dread with unsettling drawn out scares that linger with you long after you’ve watched it.
Come for the creepy demonic horror, stay for the compelling family drama. Incantation is a solid supernatural thriller that’s both stylish and creepy, and gives us characters we actually care about and can relate to!
What did you think of Incantation? Let us know in the comments!