In this new entry from Patricio Valladares, voyeuristic violence underscores a slow crawl through the Chilean wilderness. Invoking Yell, written by Valladares (in collaboration with Barry Keating), is beautifully filmed. Its shaky shots and grainy texture are immediately reminiscent of striking scenes from The Blair Witch Project (1999) and other well-regarded found footage films. Ambitiously filmed throughout one weekend, Invoking Yell is a unique addition to the genre, though not a very remarkable one.
The film opens with the sound of conversation and several roving glimpses of foggy greenery. Andrea (María Jesús Marcone), Tania (Macarena Carrere), and Ruth (Andrea Ozuljevich) are on their way to the site of a local tragedy to film a music video for their Black Metal band, ‘Invoking Yell.’ Only Ruth isn’t a part of the band, as Andrea often reminds her. Instead, Ruth seems to be the duo’s new videographer, tagging along to capture artsy footage on her father’s priceless handheld camera to prove she’s worthy enough to be a part of the group.
The film follows the trio as they traverse the woods endlessly, occasionally stopping to take photos, answer Ruth’s curious questions, and stick up their middle fingers. When night falls, Ruth believes that Andrea and Tania plan on recording the vocals and visuals for their music video, but nothing is ever that simple.
Invoking Yell is a hard film to make peace with. Where it shines is also what audiences will find most frustrating. In particular, while Andrea’s narcissistic disdain for “regular people” is a hallmark of the Black Metal genre, her meanness is as grating as her vocals. Her callous attitude marks her as a thoroughly unpleasant character. The scene in which she rips Ruth’s beanie off her head, throwing it around on the floor and snapping at her repeatedly not to pick it back up is reminiscent of the “mean girl” archetype. While Tania is comfortable enabling her behavior and Ruth can let her transgressions go, Andrea’s actions worsen with time. It is a testament to Marcone’s acting that she can play a miserable character with as much skill as she does.
Unfortunately, the film misses the mark with its pacing. It’s intentionally and torturously slow and filled with long, roving shots of the woods that quickly grow repetitive and stale. Between Valladares’ script and the actors’ performances, the only horror scattered through the first sixty minutes arises from the audience's social anxiety watching the girls bicker and gossip.
When something finally does happen, it is to great effect, but the sudden shift is too shocking and the brutality too voyeuristic. While appropriate to the theatrics and motifs of Black Metal, the violence is sickening and uncomfortable. It’s perhaps too much for viewers to handle after waiting over an hour for demonic spirits and possessed dolls to appear around the corner. Valladares succeeds in eliciting an emotional reaction, at the very least.
Despite its few strengths, Invoking Yell disappoints. Between its struggles with pacing and abrupt tonal shifts, the film fails to deliver beyond a premise that could have otherwise been fantastic. While effectively disturbing, the technical successes and skilled cast are the only elements that save it from a tiresome and forgettable fate.