Review: 'The Invoking' (aka: Sader Ridge)

By: Heather Seebach

Ever wonder what Texas Chainsaw 3D would have been like if it wasn't awful? Well, remove the chainsaw-wielding psycho, add a lot more talent, then subtract a couple million dollars from the budget and you get the fantastic indie thriller, The Invoking. Both films involve a young woman taking a road trip with friends to visit her newly-inherited home from the birth family she forgot. The big difference (aside from Leatherface) is that Invoking is a subtle, beautiful, and haunting example of horror-done-right.

When Samantha (Trin Miller) learns that her estranged aunt has died and left her a house, she gathers up some friends and hits the road to check the place out. Sam, given up for adoption at age 5, does not remember her real family but once she stays the night in the old house, bad memories begin to resurface. The past just won't stay buried and it begins to have dangerous effects on Sam and her friends.

Shot over 7 days (!!) on a meager budget of $11,000, Jeremy Berg's psychological thriller recalls the slow-burn atmospheric terror of films like Session 9 or Resolution. There is no need for jump scares or bloodbaths here. What little gore exists is relatively restrained (and thus more shocking). The menace of The Invoking is the past itself, revealed gradually through glimpses of the terrible crimes committed in this house. Shadows, editing, and sound are used effectively to achieve genuine creepiness. While it plays a bit like a ghost film, the most disturbing elements draw upon real-life horrors.

Unlike most horror films of this nature, Invoking's characters are likable and realistic, not frustratingly idiotic. The whole cast of young actors is pretty good but many scenes are stolen by D'Angelo Midili who plays a groundskeeper and childhood friend of Sam. The actor has the creepy-hot charisma of a young James Spader that renders you unable to take your eyes off him. 

It is hard to believe this is co-writer/director Jeremy Berg's first feature film because it is executed so skillfully. The Northern California scenery is breath-taking and he captures it beautifully. It only takes one film like this to know that Berg has a bright future ahead of him. It is impossible to not be impressed by the movie's tiny budget and shooting schedule, but even without knowing that information, The Invoking is one damn good indie thriller that needs to be seen. 

The Invoking is now available on DVD - get it here!

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