Saturday, October 15, 2016

Review: The Invoking 3: Poltergeist Dimensions

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2016
Images from the Internet

The Invoking 3: Poltergeist Dimensions
(aka The Invoking 3: Paranormal Dimensions)
Written and directed by Lee Matthews
Ruthless Pictures / MVD Visual
81 minutes, 2016

Just a couple of housecleaning bits to begin. First, although this is the third of the anthology Invoking films, I have never seen the earlier editions. Second, although Lee Mathews is listed as the director, with one exception, he is actually the compiler of the shorts that make up the collection, and in fact he directed only the last of the nine tales included in this edition. And lastly, while the subtitle of the DVD is Poltergeist Dimensions, the film itself and all information about it has it as Paranormal Dimensions. Perhaps it was changed legally so as not to step on the foot of the overrated Paranormal Activity franchise?

Although independent from the other Invoking series, the overarching theme remains the same in that it is supposedly based on true events in the supernatural world, or as the film states it: “Although hundreds of disturbing paranormal events occur every year, most of these chilling encounters go unreported – until now.”

There is no overriding arc or bookending addition that ties them all together, but rather it lets each speak for itself. The one thing all these dark tales have in common is the title cards, which state the location (twice with typos) and time of day. The shorts come from around the world, although most from the eastern half of the United States. Like the ABCs of Death series, another anthology work with multiple directors, many of these are either without dialog, or kept at a minimum, but is not afraid to use the original language in which it was filmed (for which I totally agree); in those cases there are subtitles.

Like most collections, there is a wide range of quality of story, though each looks good (i.e., not amateurish) in its own right. The weakest link, in my opinion, is the opener, “The Dark Comes Quickly” (2014), a 15-minute found-footage style opus of a trio of obnoxious PhD students who go looking for a temple in the Mictal Mines in San Luis Potosi, Mexico (about 250 miles due north of Mexico City). It’s frat boy mentality and handheld cameras. There’s a cool beastie and Aztecs warriors, but it falls flat. The other eight tales are more interesting and much less annoying.
Fortunately it is followed by “The Dweller” (2016), a 6-minute piece filled with yuck, rot, worms and something hiding. The only human character here is well handled by the busty Tessa Netting (she was on Glee and Disney’s Bunk’d, but thankfully she actually acts here rather than emotes like a cartoon), arguably the biggest name in the film.

The theme of this particular short, the figurative thing under the bed, is a common thread/threat throughout a few of the films here, two of them being incredibly similar in the final act: this one and the finale, “3 AM” (2016), though both “Selfies” and “Bedroom Window” (2016) come awfully close.

Don’t get me wrong, they are all fun, even though they rely on a similar trope. Others include (but not exclusively) aliens, demons, and the zombie apocalypse.

Lemme get to some of the standout pieces, though I don’t think there was a stinker in the house, even with my whine about the opener. Let’s start with “La Dama de Blanco” (2015), also found on YouTube as “The Lady in White.” Four young men (college age) take a night drive to the beach resort of Puerto Piritu, on the north-central coast of Venezuela (about 200 miles East from Caracas). The time posting for this episode is 4:44 AM. The story has an inevitable and obvious track, and it’s a tad too long at 17 minutes, but it’s actually well directed, acted, and lit, considering most of it takes place in a moving car in dead of night.

“Prisoner at Bannons" (aka “The Thing at Bannon’s Lookout”; 2006), takes place in Lawrence, Kansas, dealing with an exchange between a couple and some mysterious woodland creatures. It definitely has a couple of big surprises in it, including a bucket of deplorables turn of events, but the Richard Matheson-worthy twist is the icing on the tale, as mixed metaphors might say. The news crew aspect is a bit of an add-on that I can understand but believe to be not totally necessary because it doesn’t really add to the story (other than perhaps comic relief in a Scream/Gale Weathers kind of way), but it also doesn’t take away much either. With or without, it’s one of my faves here.

One of the two stories based in New Jersey (isn’t that scary enough?) is the brief “Heartbreak of the Dead” (2014) which starts off confusing, but leads to a very satisfying ending. Thousands of miles away in Prague, I’m mixed about “She is Not My Sister” (2016; 7 min, which can be found on YouTube), where a a boy and his step-sister deal with a playground demon. The effects are great and the verbal punchline is cute, but on some level the ending left me uncomfortable and sad.

The last short I’ll discuss is, as I said, the finale, “3 AM,” directed by Matthews. Located in the bleak (here, anyway) and desolate Brecon Beacons area of Scotland at 3:00 AM, a woman is alone and frightened by, well, just about everything, including a Romper Room jack-in-the-box. Yes, it even has the official RR logo from when I was a kid. Didn’t even know they were still a brand. But I digress… This short was a bid of a joy ride, and Matthews manages to make the viewer jumpy about practically everything. He works the dread nerve like a pro.

There are no extras other than the chapters, obviously broken up by each story as a new chapter. This is the second film by the director, the other also an anthology of shorts (I’ll bet there is included one by him) that is not part of the Invoking series. I have to say that I like horror shorts because they’re usually more directly to the point, without too much fluff. And that’s just what you have here, a nice bunch of meat and taters tales to tantalize by keeping interest taut.

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