Studio: RLJ Entertainment
Director: Jamie DeWolf, Adam O’Brien, Jay Holben, Patrick Rea, Corey Norman, Jamie Root
Writer: Julien Maisonneuve, Trevor Botkin, Dave Shepherd, Haley Norman
Producer: Jesse Baget, Matt Medisch
Stars: Asher Kennedy, Andrew Fleming, Shannon Lahaie, Becka Adams, Allen Lowman, Jessica Fratus, Rachel Keefe
Six stories of paranormal events include a filmmaker trapped in an abandoned asylum, a killer haunted by his crimes, and an unstable woman home alone with a supernatural spirit.
Don’t remember “The Invoking?” Didn’t see it? Didn’t like it? Don’t worry, because “The Invoking 2” joins “Troll 2,” “Knock Knock 2” (review here), and “Creepshow 3” (review here) as a horror movie sequel whose only relation to its predecessor is the title.
It’s one of those strategies that can come into play when a distributor believes s/he will have better success piggybacking on a previous moneymaker instead of risking unfamiliarity with a new property. See “Tormented,” the film “Berkshire County” (review here) retitled to look like a sequel to “Torment,” for another example.
Subtitled “Paranormal Events” within the movie itself, but not on the key art, “The Invoking 2” is actually a collection of six unrelated shorts connected only by the commonality of featuring a paranormal presence in each piece. Each story is straightforward enough for a single-sentence summary beginning with “A (person)…”
- A man picks up a silent hitchhiker and discovers a disturbing connection to an accident on the side of the road.
- A filmmaker and his guide through an abandoned asylum are haunted by the ghost of a nurse who committed suicide there.
- A woman home alone is stalked by the specter of her sinister doppelgänger.
- A serial killer meets his match when an unseen presence torments him in a hotel room.
- A suicidal woman goes on a cabin getaway with friends, but is driven mad by the sound of scratching in the walls.
- A girl calls 911 about a masked man on her lawn only to find that locked doors and windows cannot protect her.
Genre film festivals are loaded with short films good and bad, but all of them may as well disappear down a bottomless hole once the projector bulb goes dark, simply because there isn’t a profitable platform to ever present them to the public. Collecting those shorts into feature-length anthologies seems like a no-brainer, since that is the only way a distributor will ever release them, and the only way a non-festival audience will ever find them, not to mention that the movies are already produced and presumably paid for.
From that angle, “The Invoking 2” is to be applauded for taking such initiative and giving lower-profile short projects their turn in the spotlight. At the same time, viewers should know upfront that they are not in for a true sequel to “The Invoking,” whether that matters or not, and they also are not getting an original collection of films commissioned specifically for this project.
Similar to what Dread Central did with “Zombieworld” (review here), “The Invoking 2” combs various vaults from 2009 to 2014 to stitch together its patchwork quilt of scary stories. Re-presenting the previous list, these are the six shorts appearing in “The Invoking 2:”
- U-Turn (2012) – Directed by Jamie DeWolf.
- Insane (2014) – Directed by Adam O’Brien.
- Alone (2014) – Directed by Jay Holben.
- Do Not Disturb (2009) – Directed by Patrick Rea.
- Natal (2013) – Directed by Corey Norman.
- Melissa (2014) – Directed by Jamie Root.
For being a collection of disparate parts, these shorts fit together surprisingly well. There isn’t a mismatch of slapstick versus serious or competent versus cheap ping-ponging all over the place. I made it nearly halfway through the runtime before even realizing the movie wasn’t a formally unified anthology a la “V/H/S,” “ABCs of Death” (review here), or “A Christmas Horror Story” (review here). Credit producers Jesse Baget and Matt Medisch, the latter of whom co-produced the original “The Invoking,” for finding six films with similar looks, feels, and production values.
At only five minutes, “U-Turn” is okay enough as an opener. About the only note to offer is if you don’t see the twist before the main character does, you probably aren’t paying attention.
“Insane” includes effective CGI smoke effects accompanying its apparition, but 16 minutes if too long for its cliché parade. An abandoned sanitarium reportedly haunted by a nurse who birthed Satan’s son. A stray wheelchair sitting in a hallway. A creepy child’s doll discarded on a dusty floor. There’s even a brief “found footage” segment to make sure every trope gets a checkmark.
Too long also describes “Alone,” a two-minute story told in 12 about a woman shaken by sounds in her empty apartment. Watch with a sigh as Erin does dishes, rifles through her medicine cabinet, spies a neighbor checking the mail, draws a bath (twice), and then relaxes in the water. The eventual climax may be a metaphor about confronting inner demons, but the entire affair is too uninteresting to care about its meaning.
“Do Not Disturb” and “Natal” are the most full-bodied and best-produced segments, though “Natal” is undercut by a poor performance from its lead actress. Her dialogue delivery is more wooden than Pinocchio and additionally hindered by apparent ADR looping. She comes across as dreadfully dull, making it difficult to find a tether into her tale.
“Melissa” is over so fast that if you drop something at the start and look down to pick it up, you’ll be watching credits by the time your eyes return to the screen.
Overall, “The Invoking 2” is more underwhelming than it is thrilling. The filmmaking is fine, but the stories are forgettable. However, if other productions plan on taking the same approach to anthology crafting, they would do well to follow this movie’s template of at least finding shorts with similar tones and quality levels, instead of playing Dr. Frankenstein with whatever parts are readily available. Hopefully, they’ll also find more energetic shorts favoring lasting bite over mediocre bark.
Review Score: 50