[Panic Fest 2023 Review] 'Invoking Yell' Blends Black Metal and Found Footage for a Disturbing Scream
Merging black metal with the found footage genre, director Patricio Valladares’ new Chilean horror flick, Invoking Yell, is a disturbing descent into the darker side of music that invokes plenty of uncomfortable chills.
Written by Valladares and Barry Keating, Invoking Yell is set in the 90s and follows an all-female black metal band in the midst of creating their first demo tape, Invoking Yell. Musicians Andrea (Maria Jesus Marcone) and Tania (Macarena Carrere) have invited Ruth (Andrea Ozuljevich) to come to an isolated location where a school-bus full of children died to film them recording their music, which blends EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) with industrial thrashing. As you might expect, capturing the voices of the dead in the middle of the woods doesn’t exactly go according to plan.
Invoking Yell’s greatest strength is in its atmospheric authenticity as a “found tape from the 90s”. Scratchy film. Washed colors. The occasional warbling. It looks and feels exactly like an old home movie dug up out of the ground. It would pair nicely with the V/H/S/99 segment “Shredding” and a glass of the hardest whiskey you can find. With Ruth as an inexperienced filmmaker borrowing her parents video camera—prepare to be shocked at how bulky the thing is, Gen Z—the footage looks like it was tossed into a mosh pit and got the shit beaten out of it. Blurry imagery. Poor framing. Frantic movement that makes it difficult to tell what’s going on at times. Valladares and cinematographer Vittorio Farfan do an exceptional job of creating the sense that this is all real, which is key to the success of any found footage horror flick.
Viewers with a bad habit of getting the spins during your typical found footage film will probably feel like they just got back from an all-night bender, but the style of Invoking Yell is what makes it effective. Think back to watching Blair Witch or The McPherson Tape for the first time. There’s a sinister sensation that creeps up your spine when these films feel genuine, a recounting of something inevitable and horrible and impossible to do anything about but just watch. Throw in a rusting school bus, dolls hanging from trees and supposed recordings of the screeching damned mixed with industrial black metal, and Invoking Yell strings together unsettling vibes in spades.
A slow burn that goes from a whisper to a scream, there isn’t a whole lot going on for some time outside of Andrea and Tania discussing their music as “depressive suicidal black metal” meant to “produce suffering and agony recorded with a microphone”. Normies might be creeped out by the way the girls discuss their music, but hardened horror fans may find themselves anxious for whatever supernatural interruptions are coming. And boy, do they take a long time to get there. In the meantime, Valladares and solid performances from the cast establish plenty of tension for the audience to chew on. Marcone is especially intimidating as Andrea, the leader of the expedition with a short temper and an obvious disliking for Ruth. Rather than scare the audience outright—you won’t find a single jump scare in the first fifty minutes or so—Valladares relies more on the subtle actions of his cast to draw the viewer in through increasing friction. Ruth’s obnoxious penchant for asking the girls to wave at the camera. Andrea’s not-so-subtle dig at posers. All of it the anticipatory intake of air before letting out a wicked scream.
Once Valladares does eventually quit tuning the voice of Invoking Yell and let the horror loose, the film becomes a discombobulated frenzy that loses itself in the chaos. The creepier pieces of the premise—i.e., the recording of spirits—get lost in the shuffle as well. A film about the way in which music is an art form with a unique ability to capture pain and anger, Valladares’ tells a disturbing tale as dark as the black void of death…but in this case, the journey is more interesting than the destination. By leaning into various black metal tropes while moving away from the more fascinating notes of the story, Invoking Yell becomes an unsurprising tale that does little to distract the audience from where it’s going.
None of that is to say Invoking Yell isn’t a worthwhile watch, though. With a group of badass women and eerie atmospherics, this music compilation from Hell will satisfy anyone looking for a solid found footage horror flick.
By Matt Konopka
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