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Reading time: 2 minutes Content Warning: Incantation contains scenes of self-harm and suicide. spell is a Taiwanese found footage horror film on Netflix. Six years ago, Ruo-nan (played by Hsuan-yen Tsai) and two of his

Reading time: 2 minutes

Content Warning: Incantation contains scenes of self-harm and suicide.

spell is a Taiwanese found footage horror film on Netflix. Six years ago, Ruo-nan (played by Hsuan-yen Tsai) and two of his friends visited a religious site as part of a ghost hunting project they were working on. Since then, Ruo-nan has seen bad luck strike those around her. But, after a lot of hard work and the help of psychiatrists, Rou-nan is ready to let her past go and reunite with her daughter Dodo. But something still haunts Ruo-nan and seems to have her eyes on her daughter.

Found Footage films require a delicate balance in their presentation to be successful. The need to create the feeling that the footage the viewer is looking at is who they claim to be must be leveraged against the need to keep the film clear enough for the audience to tell what is going on. spell does a solid job of balancing these two needs against each other. Camera angles are well-chosen and footage only leans into real shake when appropriate and intentional. Thanks to this balanced approach, this film delivers a slow-burning horror story that focuses much more on weird atmosphere than jumping. This tension is aided by the film’s unique narrative structure.

Rather than just looking at these found images, spell delivers the video to the audience as something meant for them. Ruo-nan serves as a guide to the viewer, periodically explaining her motives and feelings, while asking the audience to help her overcome the curse that seems to haunt her daughter. This revolutionary aspect of the fourth wall of spell is something I’ve never experienced before in a horror movie. This gave the tale an extra level of unease as it worked to heighten the sense of emersion in its story. Additionally, the film leverages the audience’s unspoken participation in the film to deliver a unique ending that surprisingly sticks its landing.

Although there isn’t much visual presence of monsters or other demonic entities in spell, when the horror elements of the film appear, they are presented well. The menace and dread these moments are meant to convey to the viewer is heightened by solid visual design and deft use of camera angels showing only what the viewer needs to see. These brief shocks prevent the film from growing too slowly and allow the tension-laden atmosphere to have rewarding fallout.

spell is probably my favorite found movie I’ve seen. Granted, my experience with the genre is limited, but I think anyone who likes slow-burn horror movies can find something to enjoy in this film. Whether it’s the tense atmosphere, the interaction with the audience, or its unique ending, this is one movie I’d say every horror movie lover should absolutely watch.

spell is streaming now on Netflix.

spell

9/10

TL;DR

spell is probably my favorite found movie I’ve seen. Granted, my experience with the genre is limited, but I think anyone who likes slow-burn horror movies can find something to enjoy in this movie. Whether it’s the tense atmosphere, the interaction with the audience, or its unique ending, this is one movie I’d say every horror movie lover should absolutely watch.