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Home > Incantation (2022): A Review

Incantation (2022): A Review


WARNING: This is a Cursed Video...

Li Ronan is a mother trying to put her life back together following years of living in fear. 6-years prior, she, her boyfriend, and his cousin attended a ritual held by the latter’s family in a remote location. The group’s purpose was not to participate in the ritual, though. Their purpose was to inspect and document their findings in a forbidden tunnel on the property. In doing so, they violate an ancient taboo, seeing horrific misfortune befall all who come into contact with the curse that had been set free. Ronan was the only survivor of the incident, but it would only be the beginning. Years later, she tries to reclaim her life and daughter, Dodo, who she had given up to foster care to spare her the dire misfortune that befalls those around Ronan. But the curse begins targeting her Dodo as well. Desperate to save her, Ronan reaches out for help.

Incantation is a 2022 Taiwanese horror film and the countries highest grossing of the year. Not only that but it’s hailed as the highest-grossing horror film in the country’s history. This found footage film is a non-linear splicing of two narratives, the current narrative, which follows Li Ronan’s struggle to alleviate a curse from her daughter, and the events which brought about the curse. Incantation does something unusual by asking for the audience’s participation. The film is a plea from Ronan herself to the audience. It’s the viewer’s choice in whether or not to grant her wish. Doing so may come with a price, however. It’s an interesting spin on the found footage genre, but does it live up to the hype?

The plot is mostly solid and the non-linear format not only works well but is vital. Still, the film is not without its flaws. For one, it’s not entirely clear why Ronan and her cohorts need to document the ritual, or why they find it necessary to record their desecration of the religious ceremony. Furthermore, her boyfriend’s family does not take great pains in informing the group of its importance, and it is very important. Dangerously important even. This basic information could have saved everyone involved but is neglected for the sake of the movie’s plot. Aside from this, most of the story is solid. The viewer feels Ronan’s fear and desperation, and they even fear for her child. The ritual and deity are fascinating as well. Despite the folly that unleashes such spiritual wrath, it’s believable that Ronan is innocent and undeserving of her punishment. 

Of her group in the 6-year prior segments, there isn’t much reason to like her two companions. Ronan’s boyfriend Dom is nice enough, but he is otherwise a caricature of a supportive boyfriend, leaving no emotional weight behind his and Ronan’s relationship. Dom’s cousin Yuan is positioned as a subtle comic relief, but he is mostly annoying. This serves the plot enough for this movie to happen, but like Dom, he should know better than to play his part in breaking the taboo. Also like Dom, he too is one-dimensional.


The best characters are Ronan, her daughter, and a man named Ming, the closest thing Dodo has to a father. Ronan’s relationship with Dodo is the emotional core, and Tsai Hsuan-yen’s performance as a helpless and frightened mother is palpable. Parent viewers may easily be able to emphasize with her as they would also do anything to save their child. Huang Sin-ting doesn’t give an Oscar-worthy performance as Dodo, but she is lovable and very much the six-year-old she plays. Kao Ying-hsuan is the lovable would-be father Ming. He’s such a gentle soul, and his love for Dodo can be felt. In horror, he is the rare supporting character the viewer actually cares for.

As far as scares, this film is adequately terrifying. There is a good deal of gore and onscreen violence for the people who crave that kind of thing. They are not over the top either. The spirit is not the kind that slams doors or terrorizes people by keeping them awake at night. It would much rather slam heads than doors. It murders people without mercy and is nearly unstoppable. The imagery is creepy and blood-chilling. What makes all this better is that there is no time wasted to get to the haunting. There are maybe 10-20 minutes before things go wrong.

The ending is petrifying and bound to keep viewers in their seats even into the credits wondering if they really saw what they just saw. But as terrifying as all this is, there is one flaw. None of it is anything new. The imagery is fascinating, and the film is perfectly scary, but it’s most effective if the viewer has never seen another found footage film before. It’s not by the numbers, but there is the formula that most films of this nature tend to follow. Don’t be mistaken, there is enough to keep horror fans in their seats, and they stand a good chance of being frightened, but Incantation doesn’t give anything new or groundbreaking to the genre. It’s like a romance film in that the viewer knows where things will end up, but they are along for the ride anyway because they want to fall in love all over again.

By modern American horror standards, Incantation may be a touch familiar. It has that overseas flare that American audiences love about Asian horror, despite its usage of familiar tropes. There is even potential to be something that hasn’t been seen before. Despite this, It did not hit that mark. It’s worth the watch on Netflix and even worth the price of admission in theaters. The only thing to say to horror fans about this film is not to expect to be wowed. This isn’t a genre-defining film and it may not live up to its hype. Nonetheless, it’s a perfectly acceptable film.


Incantation (2022) Official Netflix Trailer

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