[Review] I Call Upon Thee [Portland Horror Film Festival]: Two Young Sisters Summon a Terrifying Entity

Absolutely chilling, unsettling, and macabre, writer/director Michael Kratochvil’s Australian short film I Call Upon Thee takes the concept of a children’s horror story and places it firmly in the world of adult fright fare. The result is an unforgettable slice of cinema that lingers discomfitingly long after its initial viewing.

Nia (Anna Cooke) is older sister to Jo (Asher Bryans), and she is trying to get Jo to memorize a chant that she hopes will summon the help of something supernatural to pull the girls’ fractured family out of its current state. Their mother Kim (Josephine Croft) is suffering mentally and nearly useless to her daughters, and there is a very young baby sibling that needs to be taken care of. 

Cooke and Bryans are both marvelous, with the young thespians nailing their starring turns. Their facial expressions are perfect, and their performances highly believable.

Kratochvil takes the concept of a cautionary fable and runs with it, crafting a nightmarish vision that hints at a wider, even more terrifying world — and here’s hoping that he finds the resources to turn the concepts of this short into a feature film. The visuals are jarring, from the behaviors of the mother to what the girls invoke — no spoilers here, but it’s unnerving, to say the least, and Paul de Freitas gives ghoulish cinematic life to it — to one of the most disturbing images I have seen in recent memory. I’ll just say that it involves flies and leave the shock to future viewers).

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I Call Upon Thee screens as part of Portland Horror Film Festival, which takes place June 29–July 3, 2022 in Portland, Oregon, with an online streaming option for U.S. residents. For more information, visit https://portlandhorrorfilmfestival.com/.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.