As someone who keeps up with upcoming Netflix shows, this one immediately climbed up on my watchlist as soon as Netflix posted about the teaser. Claimed as Taiwan's scariest film, Incantation is a mix of found-footage and documentary film that follows the story of Li Ronan, who must save herself and her daughter from the curse brought upon her in the past. The plot was revealed in a nonlinear narrative that goes back and forth between the past and the present.
The opening showed Ronan talking to the audience about changing fate and later, an important symbol that she wanted us to remember along with a chant, "Hou-ho-xiu-yi, si-sei-wu-ma," that she also wants us to say along. Later, we learn that Li Ronan's parental right was revoked due to a strange illness her daughter Dodo had experienced which made Dodo stay in foster care. Wanting to prove she's capable of taking care of Dodo, she decided to buy a camera and record a parenting diary. Yet, on the first day Dodo started to live with Ronan again, they experienced strange things; Dodo looked possessed, screaming, and able to magically shut the door.
Then the movie goes back to an event that happened six years ago that plays a crucial role in the story. Ronan was a part of a paranormal investigation group that makes videos on YouTube along with two of her friends. They went to a village where the people worship Buddha-Mother, in hope that they can visit a forbidden location inside the village as well. The forbidden location turned out to be a tunnel, and it's strictly a taboo place to enter as it could bring bad luck to everyone who enters it. But when the villagers gather around to hold their ritual, they sneak out to the tunnel and break the taboo.
Ronan's friends, Dom and Yuan eventually enter the tunnel and discover a room that has a weird statue whose face is covered by a cloth. Of course, out of curiosity, they put away the cloth to expose the face of the statue. However, unfortunate events befall them which end up making them pass away in strange and disturbing ways. From this, we learn that the invocation of the curse begins with the sight of the statue's face and intensifies for anyone who sees the symbol and utters the associated incantation.
Later we learn that Mother Buddha is a god of torture and pain, so anyone who sees or hears the emblem and incantation will most likely suffer bad luck. The curse is impossible to be broken, but you can lessen it by spreading the curse over more people. Thus, Ronan's 'parenting diary' footage is actually fooling the viewers to receive the curse in order to free Dodo from the consequences of her wrongdoing in the past.
Even though the religion, ritual, and mantra were fictional, there's a real incident that inspires this story. The case wasn't disclosed, but Twitter is a magic place and someone found the news about the story that imbues the movie. In 2005, six family members of the Wu family in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, were being violent toward each other; punching, leaving burns on the skin with incense, forcing each other to eat feces, down to claiming they were 'possessed' by gods.
This movie is also often compared with The Medium, a Thailand found-footage film that highlights sacred rituals as well. Many said The Medium was better, but I disagree. I wasn't satisfied with both of the endings, but Incantation left quite an impression on me rather than The Medium. Even though the nonlinear narrative was a bit of a problem for me because it was structured in puzzling ways that left you questioning a lot of things and there were no further explanations regarding certain things. But if you're looking for a good gore, this would be the answer. Hoping that there are going to be more Asian found-footage horror films in the future!