“Incantation,” the 2022 Taiwanese horror film, often uses the Joel Coen technique of a shaky camera and tries to merge chaos with gory elements, though whether they are able to scare you off or make you feel disgusted is still a matter of debate. Apart from that, through the found-footage format of the film, the makers try to give the audience a truly authentic experience. Though films like, “The Blair Witch Project” and “The Paranormal Activities,” have achieved a cult status over the years, the found-footage format has always been a very tricky territory, as the audience are still a bit skeptical when it comes to embracing the films belonging to the subgenre. “Incantation” has been written and directed by Kevin Ko, and has been co-written by Che-Wei Chang. So let’s see if “Incantation” was able to bring forth an intriguing and scary narrative.
‘Incantation’ Summary: What Is The Documentary About?
Li Ronan was due to get custody of her child. Due to her mental condition in the past, her daughter Chen Le Tung (Dodo) was taken away from her and kept in a foster home that was run by a man named Ming and his assistant Mrs. Hsia. Ronan was excited for her child’s return. She had planned to create a digital “new life diary” for her daughter where she wanted to record each and every moment of her life. The mother-daughter duo started a new chapter in their lives. Dodo was the only family that Ronan had, and she wanted to make up for the years lost, when they had to stay separately because of Ronan’s mental condition. But as soon as Dodo arrived at her home, uncanny things started happening.
One night, she heard a voice and found Dodo sleepwalking and making a screeching noise. Dodo started feeling the presence of a creature she referred to as “baddie,” but Ronan thought she was imagining these things because the children in her kindergarten used to tease and bully her. She went to meet the principal after this instance and decided to give the students in Dodo’s class some presents so that they would start treating her in a friendly manner. The child started dealing with the “baddie” in her own manner, because nobody did anything about it. She covered her doll’s eyes as she told her mother that her dolls were scared of the creature. Ronan told her once that she also used to see things. She told her to remember her three favorite things in the whole world as soon as she got scared. Dodo, in her innocence, said that she likes pineapple and her stuffed toy she called Bunny, and whenever she feels scared, she will think about it.
Ronan went to sell a property that she had probably lived in before, but the broker was worried about some Buddha statues that were kept on the terrace. She said that many buyers felt scared by its presence. She was having these conversations with the broker when Dodo quietly went to the terrace without anyone noticing. She was found inside the room where all the weird-looking statues were kept. Ronan was horrified to find her little daughter sitting in that room, because she very well knew the threat that it posed. She quickly picked her up and left the premises. Dodo got an epilepsy attack on the way back, and the doctors told her that it was Hemiparesis. Things started getting worse when Ronan once again started seeing things, and Dodo started showing violent behavior at school. The doctors once again deemed her unfit and revoked her custody rights. A distraught mother didn’t know what to do, so she managed to break into the hospital where Dodo was admitted and took her without telling the authorities. Ming also reached there coincidentally, and seeing Dodo; he couldn’t help but accompany them both.
What Had Happened Six Years Ago? How Did The Curse Come Upon Ronan?
Ronan was dating Dom, and together with his brother Yuan, they ran a digital channel, named the Strange Murmurs. They were amateur conspiracy theorists who busted myths but, till now, hadn’t encountered any sort of threatening situation. They were going to Dom and Yuan’s ancestors’ home, where their grandfather and extended family used to stay. As soon as the Ghostbusting trio arrived at the scene, their uncle told Ronan to return as she couldn’t be a part of the rituals that were going to take place. He was very particular about it, though Dom tried to make them understand that she was his girlfriend and could be considered his family. Suddenly, they had a change of heart when the senior aunt of the Chen family saw Ronan’s hand and observed something. Ronan was allowed to stay there. The ritual started at night, and the great aunt told the kids that they must return every ten years to pray to Mother Buddha, and once they offered their name in the ritual, they mustn’t use it in real life. There was something eerie about the place and the people who inhabited it. The great aunt told Ronan that she was pregnant and that once her girl was born, she must also be offered to Mother Buddha. Ronan and Dom were both shocked. They didn’t have any idea about it. And it was even more baffling as the great aunt said that it was going to be a girl, with certainty.
The Ghostbusters wanted to know more, so they sneaked out in the night and found that all the people of the community were worshiping something while making a unique hand gesture. They were constantly doing an incantation, which was also inscribed in every holy book they had. They met the little girl while on their way out, who was present during the ritual. She took Ronan inside and asked everybody else to stay outside. From the ceiling of the room, there was blood dripping, and the little girl took out a box that had frogs inside it. She asked Ronan to put her hair inside the box, and the frogs fed on it. When asked about her wounded ear, she told Ronan that she was the chosen one and Mother Buddha took her flesh to give blessings to everyone.
Yuan’s curiosity was still not satisfied, and he wanted to go and check out the forbidden tunnel. Ronan’s health was constantly deteriorating, but Yuan was persistent that they should check out the tunnel. They reached near the tunnel to find that the mysterious little girl who had taken Ronan inside that room, lay unconscious there. They didn’t know whether she was even alive or not. There was a severed head of a pig and other things that pointed out the fact that some ritual had been performed there. The same incantation that the people were chanting was inscribed on the tunnel door. Yuan entered the tunnel and convinced Dom to accompany him. Ronan stayed outside. There were strange voices coming from the inside, as if there were more children trapped inside. After some time, Yuan came out screaming and shouting for help. Dom had died inside the tunnel itself. The village people took his body out. While coming down from the tunnel, Ronan encountered a few dwellers who had an incantation inscribed on their whole bodies and were standing and staring at her. Yuan also became possessed and attacked her before he finally gave up his life. Ronan was barely able to escape, but she managed to take the webcam with her, which the boys had taken inside the tunnel. Later, she found out that the footage of the tunnel had been damaged, and she didn’t ever get to know what exactly the boys saw when they were inside. When Ronan came back home, she tried showing the footage to people, but whoever saw it died instantly. She knew that she had been cursed by the Mother Buddha, and she had to find a way to not let it pass onto her daughter.
‘Incantation’ Ending Explained: Was Ronan Able To Free Dodo From The Curse?
After Ronan, accompanied by the foster home owner, Ming, escaped the hospital and took Dodo with her, she directly headed towards a temple, where she knew that she could get a cure for treating her curse. The priest in the temple did some cleansing rituals on the webcam that had the footage of the tunnel. Ronan was told to not let Dodo eat anything for seven days, as it would relapse whatever progress they had made. But Ronan was still a mother. She couldn’t see her little one in such a condition, so eventually, she decided to feed her. As soon as she did that, a reaction started on Dodo’s hand, and she knew that the curse had started showing its effect, and that she should have abided by what the priests had said.
Meanwhile, Ming did his own research. He took the webcam home and watched the footage multiple times. His health started deteriorating, but he wanted to get to the roots and understand the curse of the tunnel in its entirety. He came across a person named Shi Kong Yun, a Buddhist monk living in Yunnan, who was one of the last people who could translate ancient Buddhist scriptures. Ming went to meet him, and the monk explained to him the real meaning of the incantation and how the curse had traveled from Southeast Asia to Yunnan. Ming had also recovered the footage of the tunnel, but he had decided to not send it to Ronan. But the video started showing its effect on Ming, and he, under the influence of the curse, banged his head on the table and took his life. In the process the footage of the tunnel was also sent to Ronan. The locals had performed various rituals inside the tunnel and had placed multiple mirrors among other things, in order to trap the negative energy and contain the curse.
A petrified Ronan went to the priests and found them also dead. Dodo was admitted to the hospital, and the doctors said that she was murmuring something about a pineapple. Ronan knew that her daughter was trying to remember her favorite things, as she had once told her to do, in order to not be scared. Ronan had understood that she would have to go inside the tunnel and try to break the chain herself, because otherwise, there was no viable option that was available to her. Ronan started recording and broadcasting a video and told her audience that the incantation was a religious blessing. She urged her viewers to chant it for her, as only then could she be saved from the curse. Dom’s family had been cursed by Dahei Mother Buddha, a malicious deity, and the curse had been inherited from one generation to the other. But she had fabricated this story only to save her daughter from getting cursed. Shi Kong Yun, the monk, had said that the incantation was not a blessing per se. If one recited it, it meant that they wished to share the curse and offer their name. The more people shared the curse, the weaker it became. So Ronan did just that. She went live and broadcast her message on a digital platform, letting viewers from all over the world join her crusade. She sacrificed her life by bashing her head on the wall inside the tunnel. But her efforts weren’t in vain. The curse was lifted from Dodo, and she survived, implying that now it was shared by all those who had watched the video and recited that incantation.
“Incantation” is a 2022 Horror Documentary Film directed by Kevin Ko.