Monday, 17 August 2015



There are films that annoy you or offend you, films you don't think are any good or films you just plain don't like. There are films that are dull, stupid or obnoxious, films that make no sense, films that are technically shoddy or badly put together. And there are a few films that you want to switch off after twenty minutes, cancel your LoveFilm and Netflix accounts, and maybe throw your DVD player in a canal. Very rarely does a film tick all those boxes. This week's blindfolded three-point-turn in the Found Footage cul-de-sac honestly left me wondering whether I want to watch films any more.

It's Halloween 2013 and five halfwit friends travel to an island off the Sligo coast for a weekend of hanging out in an abandoned youth hostel, smoking weed and getting drunk. They hold a seance for fun, but they then find they can't banish whatever it is they've called forth....Cue lots of running around, shrieking and yelling incoherently into a poor quality camcorder microphone, all captured on video cameras waving all over the place to the point of making the film genuinely unwatchable: to avoid being sick you have to focus on something fixed nearby, like one of the little lights on the DVD player, and try to look at the frenetic uncontrolled action in your peripheral vision.

It's not just that Invoked's cast of five are so thoroughly unlikeable and stupid that they [1] take loads of drugs and get drunk, [2] hold a seance on an island which they already know that local legend claims is haunted, [3] takes loads more drugs and get drunk again the following night, then [4] pay a visit to the local graveyard on Halloween night itself, while [5] never bothering to check back the footage they've just shot when they claim they've seen something scary. It's not just that it makes no sense: if there's no power, how are the security cameras working and how are our heroes recharging their cameras (given that they're doing the usual found footage thing of filming absolutely everything, no matter how banal, mundane or unremarkable)? It's not just that the film trots out the exact same cliches and tropes that even the most dedicated admirers of the form must be getting fed up with by now - deliberately bad camerawork, unexplained edits, captions laughably claiming that it's real, endless shots of running feet, hand-held photography inducing motion sickness.

Sure, there have always been idiots in horror movies (though these ones make the cast of The Gallows look like Nobel laureates), and a great many thoroughly enjoyable horror films have been less than technically impressive and riddled with chasms of illogic. And I know I've been whining on and on for several years now about found footage. But even with the most charitable attitude I can muster, I am honestly struggling to remember a film I have enjoyed or admired less than Invoked. From more than thirty years of watching more than eight thousand films (including a year doing media studies, for what that's worth) I cannot recall a more wretched, miserable viewing experience, one that so efficiently made The Blair Witch Project look like Suspiria and made Al Adamson look like Alfred Hitchcock. I longed for Al Adamson, I yearned for Jess Franco. A bad story badly told, Invoked is surely a line in the sand beyond which it's physically impossible to step. Not exaggerating, not being facetious: I could have wept.


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