Valley of The Sasquatch (2015) Review

votsValley of the Sasquatch (2015)

Director: John Portanova

Starring: Bill Oberst Jr., Jason Vail, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, David Saucedo, D’Angelo Midili

“So Sergio freaked out and shot a bush? Who hasn’t?”

Dysfunctional father and son duo Roger and Michael Crew (Jason Vail and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte) are forced to move to a not-quite-fit for human habitation cabin in the middle of the woods. Dad Roger immediately invites his drinking buddy Sergio (David Saucedo) and brother-in-law Will (D’Angelo Midili) up for the weekend. Primarily as an excuse to drink and do drugs with Sergio and go shoot woodland animals. What they didn’t expect was a family of Sasquatch trying to defend their territory against loggers? Presumably. It’s not terribly well explained but doesn’t really matter.

And who really expects Sasquatches anyway? The hapless group find their numbers whittled down and at last make a stand back at the cabin with fellow hapless Squatch survivor Bauman (Bill Oberst Jr.). Though they face more danger from their fellow man than a gang of kidnapping Sasquatch.

vots1Valley (it’s actually a mountain) of the Sasquatch is pretty good. Though the majority of the film is spent on the saga of Roger and Michael as they bicker and Roger lets his horrible friend Sergio constantly insult his son Michael. Slowly the circumstances of Rog and Mike’s dire straits are revealed during a hunting trip gone wrong. The Sasquatches of which there are supposedly three–but there is only one Squatch playing all three– arrive an hour into the film. When they do show up it’s, well, spectacular is overstating it, but it’s darn fun. The Squatch himself is a tall actor in a fur suit with an unfortunately immobile mask on. The fact that all the Squatches look alike is confusing, but ultimately doesn’t matter. They attack and our hapless heroes have to make a run for it.

The motivation for the Squatches is chalked up to loggers. Though why they kidnap some people and murder others is never brought up or explained. They also seem to be gentle creatures at heart, despite the violence they display they seem to just be repaying getting shot at a lot.

Across the board he acting is great with only one exception. Vail does a great job of being surly functional alcoholic dad. Joris-Peyrafritte stands out as the vulnerable and put upon son Michael. Saucedo is good at being horrible. Sergio is loathsome to the core, a cowardly bully who talks to Michael in a way no one should even talk to a dog. Midili as uncle Will is good, but some of his lines come out with a weird delivery. Still, uncle Will is one of only two likeable characters in the entire movie. Bill Oberst Jr. has a few good scenes but isn’t in it as much as could be hoped for. He opens the film then comes back toward the end to take part in the climax.

vots2The cinematography warrants special mention. The scenery is beautiful. Full of green trees, meadows of flowers and towering pines. The shots get trickier inside the dismal cabin, for starters it’s ugly. It’s also hard to get an idea of the layout of the cabin and the rooms are tiny, making for one of the worst knife fights in the history of cinema. The director also chose to shoot the scenes at night which made the forest a pressing wall of trees from which anything might emerge at any time. Much preferable to shooting day-for-night. The darkness also hides the Squatch’s face which was a good choice given that the actor couldn’t emote through the rubber mask.

Recommended to Sasquatch aficionados who like a side helping of family drama and anyone who likes pretty scenery.

Kudos for: An arm for an arm.

Lesson learned: Camping sucks.


The Invoking (2013) DVD Review

The Invoking – DVD release from Image Entertainment

Release Date: 12 May 2014
Certificate: 15
Special Features:
* Commentary with Writer/Director Jeremy Berg, Producer Matt Medisch and Writer/Producer John Portanova.
* Commentary with Actors Trin Miller, D’Angelo Midili and Andy Morris.
* The Making Of The Invoking Documentary
RRP: £12.99

invok1I suppose that one of the many reasons why I love the horror movie genre so much is in part due to the plethora of tasty little sub genres within it; Slasher, Religious, Vampire/Zombie/Monster, Gore and Supernatural – to name but just a few. Now while I would normally shy away from categorising and labelling everything and anything within an inch of its life, it’s safe to say that horror for me is a genre that, whatever mood I may find myself in, has always had something that managed to well and truly hit the horror spot in my soul.

Each of these sub genres have their rightful place in my (black) heart and each to a certain extent have been known to divide opinion both within and outside the horror community – for instance, I even know someone who doesn’t like The Texas Chainsaw massacre……yes Mikhail Mulvihill, I’m talking about you so hang your head in perpetual shame :-)..


For some reason, the sub genre of the Psychological horror, where the power of suggestion, character building and a gradual acceleration of atmosphere seems to divide said opinion more than most……..and for a few months I’ve been hearing those same whispers and heated disagreements about a certain new addition to the collection, but I’ll talk about some of those conflicting views in a little while.

So it was with gleeful chuckle and skip that I received a preview disc sent to me on behalf of Image Entertainment UK . Not only was the theme heavily psychological, so I was going to have to think just a little bit(that will be a first, I hear you say), but also it was also another thing very close to this blogger’s heart, a low-budget independent production, being shot in just one week for an amazing $11,000 dollars.

The film concerned is called The Invoking and I’m saying to you know, you should see it, you really should. But before I get well and truly carried away……….. a little on the what the film is actually about…..

As usual, I will endeavour to shy away from an in-depth spoiler strewn review as seems the annoying habit of many a blog reviewer – just why anybody would want to regurgitate a scene by scene account of a movie and thus removing any semblance of mystery for the potential viewer is simply beyond me. As for those who think they are being cleverly cryptic by suggesting that the ending is a sting/twist/surprise/open ended/closed/satisfying/ambiguous or serenaded by harp playing angels, you still are giving it away you plonkers. So for those of you in bloggerland and reviewland who feel the need to divulge every nuance of a plot, stop it, stop it now.

invok2‘Nothing wrong with this house, nope, no sir.”

Anyhoo, I once more digress. In a nutshell, the plot is as follows….

Raised by foster parents, Sam claims to remember nothing of her childhood…but it remembers her. When she discovers she has inherited a property, she invites three friends to join her on a trip that will change their lives forever.

A young reclusive caretaker (played by the truly excellent D’Angelo Midili), a childhood friend of Sam’s is there to greet them, but something else is waiting for her in the house, something dark and deadly. The ghosts of a past she has long forgotten are coming back to haunt her with a pounding, slashing, raging terror.

If you want just a taste of that taster then the trailer for the film can be found RIGHTY HERE MATEY

Originally titled Sader Ridge (taken from the name of the location in the movie), The Invoking has already gained a number of film awards including Best Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Music Score at the 2013 Dark Carnival Film Festival. The film was named the best horror film of 2013 by The website also named D’Angelo Midili as the best actor of 2013 for his portrayal of the caretaker, Eric. If that wasn’t enough, it also won the Audience Award at the  Seattle True Independent Film Festival last year.

That awkward moment when you run out of milk…..

Now, so far so good? Well yes……and no. Yes, because of the aforementioned critical accolades, but also no, because from what I’ve seen so far there are some who have rather misread and misjudged this movie on two major counts. Firstly, for some people it seems that this is a plot theme that is all too familiar, namely a group of young college kids taken out of their city comfort zones and who find themselves locating to an isolated, countryside setting only to find out that the locals may not be quite what they seem. And yes, when one first watches The Invoking, I too felt more than a twinge of deja vu at the very beginning as I waited for the family of slashers or Blair Witches to jump out faster than Bruce Campbell himself could hope to cope with. However, I soon realised my mistake, because the filmmakers have added a clever and subtle subtext to plot that many people clearly have missed – but more of that shortly. Instead I’ve noticed a few somewhat lazy comparisons to other movies.

In fact if I see another comment (and there have been one or two) that it has any sort of resemblance or connection to The Conjuring I may well pick up the nearest chainsaw myself. You see, this superficial assumption would be a mistake, because underneath this veneer of cliched familiarity, there is far more intelligence and textured character building on show here than you could shake at Hitchcock thriller at. If there is any resemblance at all between this and any other production I would wager that it is due far more to the films distributors than to the filmmakers themselves.

The annual Sader Ridge staring contest is in full swing….

This then leads on to what seems to be the second misjudgement that in my opinion, some who have viewed the movie seem to be making, namely the films pacing. Yes, the pace of the film may not quite be at the ‘lets slash em up before the words character and development can even be muttered’, but this doesn’t mean that it is tedious or boring. On the contrary, we are given time to listen in and experience the relationships of the characters as grow (and in some cases, deteriorate) with the story. We may not necessarily like all the characters, but we certainly get to know them and empathise with them when events reach their inevitable climax.

I really don’t want to sound like an elitist horror snob – I love mindless onscreen violence as much as the next person…….but just because we are asked to think and consider the actions and behaviours on screen doesn’t mean that the tension and chills are any less than a good old gore-fest. There is room for both you know.

But the inverted snobbery from some who regard the slow build up as an exercise in tedium have made a misjudgement of the film of major proportions. Yes the build up may be slow, but as a result of the time spent on developing certain characters, by the time events start to become violent when we the audience have become so emotionally invested the eventual impact is tenfold. For example, we even genuinely sympathise with one particular individual who has to commit the ultimate act of violence. This person clearly wrestles with the act but commits to it without hesitation once the decision is made. It looks at face value like a casual act of violence, but that would be a mistake to assume so – it is a scene of beautifully subtle acting and results in genuine horror.

Hey, I can see my house from here!
In addition we have the rather clever and distinctive subplot that underpins the the whole of the story. For the writer/director (have I told you that I don’t like annoyingly talented people?) Jeremy Berg has developed a story of psychological repression and combined it with a distinct supernatural tone – to great effect. The film’s pacing helps us to witness Sam slowly coming to the realisation that her lack of childhood memories may possibly be the result of her internal unconscious conflicts as she ‘witnesses’ the various elements of her personality and memory manifest themselves in her friends. To the films credit,  we the audience have to decide whether it is the house, the land or something/someone else who is invoking the internal conflicts of her unconscious. Is it really happening at all? Clever, very clever.


I mentioned earlier that I understand that the film was filmed within the space of just one week for a measly 11,000 dollars. If that is true (and I have absolutely no reason to doubt otherwise) then that fact is simply incredible.It seems that the annoyingly talented Berg has created a movie that looks as if more, far more money, was spent on it than that. Because at times it looks truly beautiful. It helps that the location is genuinely stunning on occasion, but it still has to be well lit, photographed, filmed and edited to be effective – and the makers of The Invoking do just that in a way that belies the actual amount it cost to produce.  It looks and sounds wonderful.


I can’t lie and say that this is a flawless piece of Psychological horror, because it’s not, the acting from some of the cast is less than effective.


On the one hand  the two main  players, Miller and Midili more than hold the film together, with D’Angelo Midili’sperformance in particular being something of a revelation and definitely on the ‘destined for grand things’ list.


The excellent D’Angelo Midili.
His role as the mysterious caretaker could easily have been ‘hammed up’ to levels of cliche and caricature, however a performance of measured understatement is instead on show. The problem is that the quality of acting from the rest of the cast at best doesn’t quite measure up to the two leads, at  its worst at times it is downright poor. Far be it from me to single out one particular performance as being bad, but one of the actors obvious attempt at being wacky and quirky is simply too over the top and and at times completely distracted my attention from whichever scene they’re in.


The Invoking hasn’t completely reinvented the wheel or transformed the genre, I doubt that was ever the intention of Jeremy Berg and his crew. However, what he and the rest of his team have created is a wonderfully subtle, intelligent, beautiful and at times chilling tale that may indeed seem familiar at first glance. It is though, far more than that and it works wonderfully well. It’s not just a good film, it is simply excellent.


The Invoking is due for its UK release on DVD on 12th May 2014.


This movie is well worth 8 out of 10


Image Entertainment is a relatively new label from RLJ Entertainment which was launched here in the UK in January 2014, as the UK arm of the thriving Image Entertainment US label, with an exciting new range of sci-fi action, thriller and horror genre films selected from the US schedule.

The Invoking (2013) DVD Review

inv1THE INVOKING – 2013

Dir: Jeremy Berg

Starring: Brandon Anthony, D’angelo Midili, Trin Miller, Andi Norris, Josh Truax


DVD – Released May 12th 2014


Originally titled Sader Ridge re-titled presumably to cash in on the mega success of The Conjuring (2013); The Invoking is a low budget chiller that tries to put its own stamp on a wearyingly familiar set up. When Sam (Trin Miller) inherits a property from a long lost relative she sets out along with four friends to find it. Raised by foster parents and claiming to remember nothing of her childhood she hopes to find out who she is and where she came from. On arrival they are met by a strange, awkward caretaker who claims to be a childhood friend of Sam’s and who may or may not be what he seems. Soon enough things begin to get uneasy and Sam begins to experience horrific visions, and those around her start losing their heads. Her past is coming back for her and it will take anyone who stands in its way.

Presented as a ‘psychological thriller’ The Invoking is a very slow burning movie that offers very little in the way of rewards for the viewer’s patience. It isn’t without its moments or charms but anyone looking for another Conjuring will be sorely disappointed as the two films have almost nothing in common. It has noble intentions and more ambition than most movies of its kind, but it is rarely scary and ultimately rather flat.

inv2Mistaking a long painstaking build up for tension it becomes dull and lifeless at times, and when the revelations come it is far too late in the film to save it from itself. Add to this a very confused script that doesn’t want to decide if it’s a supernatural thriller or not and it all becomes very frustrating. It desperately wants to forge its own identity, which should really be applauded, but it just fails to find its mark leaving the viewer wondering what it was all about.

However, it isn’t all bad. Whilst the performances are erratic, there is a commitment to the material that helps elevate it beyond the usual low budget fare. Whilst it may not manage to fully realise its vision at least everyone involved gives it their all and that makes a big difference. When director Jeremy Berg does get it right he captures some great atmospheric images of the landscape that give the film an eerie, off-kilter edge. As it heads towards its conclusion there are some unsettling moments and a brilliantly casual murder sequence that whilst lacking in any gore, is done in such an off-hand carefree way that it truly disturbs. It has a decent sting in its tail too, signing off in a nice creepy manner that would have befitted the film this wanted to be. So it’s a shame then that so much of the film is incoherent and uneventful.

inv3In the end it is easy to see why the distributor has tried to ‘piggy back’ on the success of a much bigger, better known film as this would be an incredibly tough sell without some sort of association. But whilst the movie is confused, and doesn’t quite manage much in the way of scares and tension it does have some moments of genuine visual beauty and enough to suggest its makers have a shot at something better in the future.

FILM 5/10