I feel so very sorry for The Invoking. It’s not the fact that it is a bad film, because it is not. In fact, it’s pretty damn good on a number of levels.

But there are too many other obstacles it must overcome to garner the respect it truly deserves from the saturated indie horror film dogpile.

First, the name.

Originally titled Sader Ridge, (which is more appropriate but perhaps deemed too obscure) it is now saddled with its completely generic (and rather perplexing) title. It seems far too easy to merely toss in a gerund (a word ending with -ing for you non-English majors), slap a “The” in front of it and, “presto!” smack it on a poster (see: The Burning, The Changeling, The Conjuring, The Haunting, The Howling, The Reaping, etc. etc.).

The Invoking
Directed by
Jeremy Berg
Brandon Anthony, Carson Holden, D’Angelo Midili
Release Date
18 February 2014
Rob’s Grade: B-

Another hurdle is the approach. With its slow-burn setup, it will be hard for it to take hold in the the A.D.D.-addled brains of the modern “horror” fan who will presumably snatch this up at a local Redbox. For those used to a double-digit body count by the halfway point of a film, you may wish to find one of the countless zombie films festering within that very same container.

The Invoking has no such aspirations, as it has a story to tell and scenes to soak in and it doesn’t mind taking its time to get there.

You can tell from the opening credits, which flash up against a music-less backdrop of tranquil shots of nature — just calming trees, picturesque mountains and little more. We are then provided the rather routine setup of a group of friends traveling together to visit a house inherited by one of its leads, Samantha (played by Trin Miller). It’s revealed she’s had a troubled past, marked by a fractured family life, but seems to have ironed out much since then and has adjusted quite nicely.

She is accompanied by friends Caitlin (played by Andi Norris), Mark (played by Brandon Anthony) and Roman (played by Josh Truax), each has his or her own baggage beyond mere duffel bags, but nothing that appears too troublesome. They are greeted at the entrance of the house by Eric (played by D’Angelo Midlili), a reserved, withdrawn creepy young fella who was tasked with the place’s upkeep since the owners died.

This all may sound like a plot we have seen a hundred times before, and, quite honestly, we have. But director/co-writer Jeremy Berg, manages to avoid the obvious pitfalls by focusing on the smaller things, such as cinematography and character nuance. Granted, not all players are strong and you hope they meet the business end of a knife fairly early on (this is a low-budget film, after all), but leads Miller and especially Midlili turn in strong, grounded performances that are atypical in roles such as theirs.

It concludes its fat-free, 82-minute runtime in a manner that may not tie up the bows that some may crave, but the ambiguity suits the mood just fine here. And despite its misguided moniker, The Invoking does stand out as not just another cabin in the woods.

Review by Rob Rector, Film Critic