Signal Horizon

See Beyond

Incantation Ending Explained- The True Story, Mother Buddha, And What Happens To Dodo?

Who doesn’t love a good cursed film? Before found footage, there were rumored snuff films that likely formed the basis for what would later become films like Paranormal Activity and the Godfather of found footage The Blair Witch Project. The idea that we are watching something forbidden, horrific, and in some cases, cursed is alluring. We can’t help ourselves. It is why these movies work. It’s also why we ride rollercoasters and skydive. The idea that decidedly unsafe things have been made safe while still feeling dangerous is what draws us. Netflix’s latest import, Incantation, combines the tradition of Asian cursed films and creepy kids to deliver an effective if not a particularly unexpected movie.

Courtesy of Netflix

Incantation opens with the promise of a curse and examples of those who were cursed. It’s pretty standard if gnarly stuff. Then our narrator inexplicably explains that everyone influences the world around them daily without even realizing it. We are told wishing on stars, praying to angels, and blowing out birthday candles are all ordinary things that make up the tapestry of a greater collaboration that can literally change the world. While no context is given for this weird declarative statement or the disturbing death scenes intermingled, they set a tone that Incantation uses successfully.

Li Ronan is a young woman fighting to get her daughter Chen Dodo back. She lost custody some time ago and is just now capable of caring for her again. In a series of flashbacks, we learn she has a mental illness that led her to believe she was cursed. When she was pregnant with Dodo, she, the father of her unborn child, and a friend investigated a creepy cult that is an extreme offshoot of traditional Buddhism. The trio of YouTubers has a ghost hunting channel where they film spooky and haunted phenomena. Although we don’t get the complete picture until much later in the film, their actions desecrating the sacred tunnels for their video had lasting consequences. Here’s everything you need to know about the ending of Incantation and what it means for Li Ronan and Chen Dodo.

Mother Buddha’s Curse

Chen Yuan, Li Ronan, and Chen Dom went to a small village where a rumored cursed tunnel was supposedly guarded. They were led through a series of rituals designed to appease the deity and maintain order. The trio was given strict instructions, which they, of course, almost immediately broke. They did all kinds of things they shouldn’t, like speaking to children who asked them to feed large hair-eating toads, moving items, and filming things they shouldn’t. They also break into the strictly forbidden tunnels, where they inadvertently capture the face of the bloodthirsty god. Unfortunately, there was a devastating price to pay.

An ancient malicious deity called the Mother Buddha is contained in the tunnels. They have captured her with a series of mirrors and offerings which protect the rest of the world from her evil. When Dom and Yuan entered and filmed inside the tunnels, they set off a chain reaction of fear and death. They also caught the deity on camera. That unleashed the demon to haunt Li Ronan and Dodo, who Li Ronan was pregnant with when she first visited the sect.

Mother Buddha is a powerful god whose face is the heart of her power. Combined with a ceremonial prayer, anyone who either sees the deity or participates in the rituals is fated to die a gruesome death. Even those who are innocently and unconsciously present, as in Dodo, who Li Ronan was barely pregnant with, are susceptible. There is no way to break the curse. The only way to save Dodo is to share the burden among thousands or even millions to allow it to be carried by everyone.

The ending of Incantation

After Dodo becomes paralyzed, the government wants to take her away from Li Ronan. She and Dodo’s foster father, who was caring for her before Li Ronan was able to drive away from the authorities. Li Ronan attempted to make things right with the angry god by reversing the curse. While doing that, Dodo’s foster dad tried to repair the tunnel footage. Unfortunately, the more he watched the video, the worse things got. His teeth started falling out, and eventually, he killed himself.

Li Ronan’s attempts to save her child were also unsuccessful. Dodo was hospitalized with malnutrition, severe dehydration, and an unknown infection. In desperation, Li Ronan sought out the last of a line of monks who may be able to help her. She learned there was no way to reverse the curse, but it could be diluted. The more people who recite an ancient prayer, the more the burden is shared. This is what she was having us memorize and speak from the beginning. Li Ronan believes she and Dodo are doomed, and the only way to protect and cure Dodo is to get as many people as possible to see the video and say the incantation.

By watching the video, she was damning everyone, hoping to spread the evil among a massive contingency. A little bit of bad luck for a lot of people is better than gruesome death for just a few. The nonlinear nature of the film’s progression allowed Li Ronan to “trick” us into watching until the very end and hopefully reciting the incantation. At the last minute, anyone watching the video sees Mother Buddha’s face. It is an unsettling effect that will disturb anyone with Trypophobia or fear of holes. As the film ends, we see Dodo happy and healthy. Evidently, Li Ronan’s sacrifice worked. We will have to wait and see how badly everyone who watched is cursed.

The true story

Incantation is loosely based on a true story. As with most “based on true events” type films, the real story is pretty hazy and just a starting point for the movie. In Taiwan in 2005 a family of painters claimed demons cursed them. They ate nothing but human feces and beat each other relentlessly. The eldest daughter in the family died a violent death. She was severely bruised and passed of multiple organ failures without a specific cause. The family reported that their daughter did not die. Instead, the demon who possessed her did. There is very little corroborative information out there, so this could be more urban legend than fact. Director of Incantation Kevin Ko also stated that internet fiction, forums, digital chain letters, and films like Ringu were influences.

There are many demons including Māra and Priyankara closely associated with demons, motherhood, and children that could have also served as inspiration for Ko’s Mother Buddha. While Mother Buddha is not a real god, there is a female Buddha who symbolizes purity. Likely, Incantation is an amalgamation of several different myths and influences.

What would you do to save your child? Where does mania end and terrible and bizarre danger begin? Li Ronan sacrificed herself and everyone she duped into watching the video to save her child. Ultimately the moral of the story is: don’t be nosy, respect others’ traditions, and sharing is caring. Maybe lay off the ghost-captured TikToks for a day or two. The opposite of the more you know, the better, in Incantation ignorance is bliss. It is on Netflix right now but be warned.