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A Dark Tunnel
‘Incantation’ is the new film from Kevin Ko and was written by Che-Wei Chang and Kevin Ko. The film originates from the country of Taiwan and pulls no punches as it goes all out for shock value in its gross and disturbing visuals. The story itself surrounds a single mother played by Tsai Hsuan-yen who struggles with her mental stability after she breaks a religious taboo. This happens when two of Ruo-nan’s friends enter a forbidden dark tunnel in a remote village in Taiwan.
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The three of them are part of a group called the ghostbusters who investigate paranormal activity. However, then entering this tunnel places a curse on Ruo-nan where anyone who gets too close to her and the story behind the breaking of the taboo is subject to extreme misfortune. This manifests itself multiple ways throughout the story but most notably in scenes where police shoot and kill themselves and where a man is run over by a semi-truck. This causes her mental health to slip dramatically and she is forced to give up ownership of her only child who is then put into foster care.
The single mother’s name is Ruo-nan and eventually, she is slowly able to get her mental health closer to being on track. This then eventually leads her to be able to take back her daughter from her foster home. This is the point in the storyline where the film actually begins as Ruo-nan films her experiences of preparing and picking up her daughter whose name is Dodo. Dodo is played by Huang Sin-ting. Ruo-nan then continues to film after she picks up Dodo in an attempt to capture the inevitable misfortune which will fall upon her daughter and help future viewers save her daughter from a curse that Ruo-nan believes has already doomed her.
The film itself is shot entirely in a found footage style which many either love or hate. Personally, I do not mind it and think that films such as ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and now ‘Incantation’ have shown that the style can be done effectively. I especially enjoyed how not every shot in the film came from Ruo-nan’s camera. In the film, we see shots from security cameras as well as shots from other various cameras which individuals use throughout the film. This use of multiple perspectives and lenses, literally, opens up the film and makes it feel more all-encompassing which is always good.
Tsai Hsuan-yen Shines as Ruo-nan
Tsai Hsuan-yen is a Taiwanese film regular and especially lights up the screen in the darkness that is ‘Incantation’. For most of the film, Tsai Hsuan-yen had the daring task of nearly having to pull a performance similar to Shelley Duvall in ‘The Shining’ as her character Ruo-nan is in extreme despair and fright throughout the majority of the film. This makes her performance even more astonishing as she was able to withstand and portray the emotional abuse of Ruo-nan’s character so accurately. Never throughout the film does she miss a beat.
Her performance is extremely convincing and adds to the fear factor of the film as a whole. There is no doubt that the film would not be what it is without her stellar performance. The film does manage to carry quite a bit of scares throughout its runtime and many can be attributed to Tsai Hsuan-yen’s intense and scarily realistic acting to the supernatural situations going on around her.
Huang Sin-ting is Equally as Horrifying as the Young Daughter
Huang Sin-ting also does the unimaginable here as Dodo. As such a young actress she is able to carry with her an extremely wide range of emotions all from adorable to terrifying. She finds a way to portray and invoke these feelings in herself and in the audience throughout the entirety of the film. She is without a doubt a crucial part of this film and manages to carry more than just her own weight as she handles the part of Dodo with extreme grace and care, however not for audience members who were clutching their pillows every time she came on screen in the later half of the film.
‘Incantation’ as a Whole
The performances and scares are certainly the highlights of the film. However, it does feature some lowlights as well. ‘Incantation’ tells its story in a unique way. The film utilizes flashbacks quite frequently and jumps around a lot from one storyline to another. This as times was hard to follow and felt rather disjointed instead of bringing the film together into one cohesive piece. The characters themselves are also not very fleshed out in the film besides Ruo-nan. While Ruo-nan’s character does change throughout the story many characters do not, including Dodo, who is never really given much background other than that she is the main character’s daughter and is subject to this horrid curse.
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However, apart from this I was pleasantly surprised when the credits began to roll. I believe that ‘Incantation’ is a film that does what it seeks to do and no more. It is of course carried by its lead performances and scares but without a doubt, it succeeds at being a successful horror film. I would recommend ‘Incantation’ to any fans of the horror genre especially fans of foreign horror films including ‘Ringu’ and ‘Audition’.
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Make sure to check out ‘Incantation’ on Netflix if you are looking for a masterclass in acting or for a simple and fun scary movie. The film itself without a doubt has some visuals which will stick in your mind for long after the credits hit the screen. ‘Incantation’ also undoubtedly features two breathtaking and horrifically amazing performances from Huang Sin-ting and Tsai Hsuan-yen. Make sure not to miss this new and original horror film from Taiwan.
Also, make sure to check out Netflix’s new film ‘The Gray Man’ from the Duffer Brothers when it hits Netflix on July 22.
Director: Kevin Ko
Writers: Kevin Ko and Che-Wei Chang
Cast: Huang Sin-ting, Tsai Hsuan-yen, and Kao Ying-Hsuan
Producers: Kevin Ko, Jacys Cheng-Yu Lin, Hsu-fen Yang
By Nathaniel Lee
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