Reviews: The Invoking 2

Chris Jordan braves the frighteningly bad anthology horror film The Invoking 2.

Anthology horror films are great. They can offer a variety of different styles and subject matters all in the same movie, and a rapid-fire succession of thrills and scares. They’re what you watch when you can’t narrow your mood down to just one specific subcategory of horror, and you want to take a scoop of everything from the genre buffet. Because of this eclectic several-films-in-one approach, diving into a strange and unknown anthology feels like less of a risk than a typical feature because the film will offer multiple chances to deliver something awesome. Surely, you tell yourself, of the six short stories in this film, at least two or three have to be good, right? Yes; usually that is true. But not when the film in question is The Invoking 2. This is an anthology in which every story is a dud; each new segment is a dangling carrot of possible impending quality, yet each one yanks that carrot away before its few minutes are over.

"You! I wanna take you to a gay bar!"
Of the six segments in The Invoking 2, approximately none of them actually work. One is pretty good until it can’t figure out how to end, and totally unravels. Another just starts to get quite good and very creepy, then cuts off and moves on when it was still warming up. In both of those cases we can almost taste that dangling quality carrot, but it gets snatched away just as we’re ready to take a bite. The remaining four segments all more or less fall flat. Nearly every story is just a tired rehash of the most well-worn genre clich├ęs, to the point that you can play a “guess what’s about to happen” game based on your knowledge of other horror films, and usually be right. Only one of the six stories – about a serial killer who meets a supernatural entity that claims to be his biggest fan – has a decently original idea. It’s a pretty compelling concept too; unfortunately, it’s the could-have-been-good one that unravels at the end, so even the film’s high point falls apart.  Several of the segments (that one included) also have the problem of ending too quickly with too little explanation, making their stories not only derivative, but frustrating in their lack of resolution.  The writing here is – with that one partial exception – frustratingly bad.

It isn’t just the writing that’s weak either. While there are a couple fairly good actors here and there – once again with the serial killer segment being the relative stand-out – most of the performances range between acceptably wooden and pretty bad. A few of the segments also have some very bad sound design; the sound effects in one particular story are distractingly awful to the point that they pull the viewer out of the film. There is only one area in which I can honestly compliment The Invoking 2: for a low-budget film like this, the cinematography is quite good. In some segments it’s very good. The cinematographers who worked on this film should have some bright futures in front of them; the writers, on the other hand, have quite a bit to learn.

"That's the most distasteful business card holder
I've ever seen in a funeral home."
Now, if you’ve actually seen the original The Invoking, you’ve probably spend this whole review feeling very confused, thinking “wait, The Invoking wasn’t an anthology film… how is this even a sequel?” This is very true; The Invoking was not an anthology film. And this is not a sequel, any more than Troll 2 is a sequel to Troll. Bizarrely, this is just a completely unrelated film which happens to share a producer with The Invoking, and presumably that producer decided to try and pass this off as a sequel for marketing reasons. Which begs the question, was The Invoking remotely successful enough that its alleged-sequel would have any sort of marketing edge over a stand-alone film? I really, really doubt it; but at any rate, if by some chance you are a fan of The Invoking, you will be sorely disappointed.

There’s another thing that’s quite odd about The Invoking 2: as I watched it, I started to get the distinct impression that I wasn’t actually watching a single film, but a series of unrelated shorts. There are differences in how the segments are shot and edited that suggest that they weren’t part of a single unified production at all. This suspicion is confirmed by the closing credits, which are nothing like any set of closing credits I have ever seen. Each of the six segments has a completely different full set of credits – and I mean completely different: different font, different style, some over black and some over a scene from the movie. In this moment, it becomes clear: this film really is six unrelated shorts edited together into one, with the closing credits of each lazily cut from the end of the original short film versions and pasted together at the end of the feature. It’s as though the producers searched YouTube for six horror shorts that could plausibly fit together and called the search results an anthology.

Knowing that these are actually six indie shorts makes me want to be a bit kinder to the component parts of The Invoking 2: I’ve worked on indie horror shorts, and I know how much hard work and heart and soul everyone involved pours into them. But the sad truth is that only two of these shorts actually come close to being good, and even they get dragged down by their own flaws and the sinking ship they’ve been tied to. While the individual short films may have been made by indie filmmakers who at least really wanted to do something better than what they ultimately wound up with, The Invoking 2 as a whole was slapped together with astonishing cynicism. It just repackages the work of others and tries to call it a sequel to a movie made by someone else entirely. Ultimately the whole thing leaves a very bad taste. Unless something truly awful comes along, this will probably end up being the least enjoyable new horror film I watch this Halloween.


- Christopher S. Jordan

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