The Invitation is somewhat of a strange film. Co-written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (known for such disasters as R.I.P.D., Clash of the Titans, and Ride Along) and directed by Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body…need I say more?) I can say that I was not super excited to watch this movie. I was, however, intrigued by the 88% certified Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. As of the time of this writing The Invitation was on Netflix, so I decided that I’d give it a shot. Does this independent film live up to critical praise? Let’s find out! WARNING: I’ll try to stay spoiler free but I make no promises.
First, let me say that while this movie is technically classified as a horror film, it plays more like a drama. There is nothing wrong with that of course, but when you think horror this movie largely didn’t seem to fit the mold. The Invitation revolves around Will (played by Logan Marshall Green) being invited to a dinner party by his ex-wife Eden (played by Tammy Blanchard.) Throughout the course of the film we discover that the intentions of the dinner party may not be as innocent as they seem.
As far as casting goes, there really aren’t any big stars. Logan Marshall Green and Tammy Blanchard have both been in a few well-known movies, but not as the leading rolls. Overall, the performances given by everyone in the film were good. At first I didn’t like any of the characters. They all felt kind of one-dimensional to me. We never really learn about any of the guests other than Will and Eden, which kind of makes sense. We follow Will the entire time, and the film opens with him arriving at the dinner party and basically the entire supporting cast is already there when he walks through the door. We’re dropped right into the middle of things without really learning about anyone. This is usually very annoying, but it seemed to work in this film. I don’t really need to know anything about his group of friends other than that they’re his friends. With Eden though, it’s a different story. Right off the bat you can tell there is tension between Eden and Will. This seems like a given since they are divorced but they don’t come out and say why. Instead, they rely on pseudo-flashbacks and character interaction for you to piece together what happened, which is excellent. Not having a movie spoon-fed to you is always refreshing.
The general atmosphere of the movie is great. It all takes place in the same house bouncing between a few different rooms to keep the movie from getting stale. Right off the bat things are uneasy. At first because Will clearly is uncomfortable being back in his old home with his ex-wife, her new husband, and their two strange friends that show up, but quickly we begin to feel like there is something much more sinister going on. This is largely due to the character interaction. Almost all of the interaction from Eden and David (the new husband) feels off. Not in an overtly creepy way, but you feel uneasy nonetheless. Be prepared for a slow burn, as this feeling of uneasiness will sit there and slowly fester for a majority of the film.
The Invitation is not without its faults, however. As I said, this is a slow burn and while I enjoy when movies elongate the feeling of tension and suspense, this movie takes well over an hour to really get going. I checked the time stamp and the third act doesn’t start until about an hour and ten minutes in which, in a film that’s just over an hour and a half, means that the ending feels extremely rushed (although I was pleased with the ending itself.) The twist, which I’m not even sure is supposed to be a twist because it sure didn’t feel like one to me, is called by its own characters about half an hour in (maybe sooner,) meaning that the rest of the time is spent waiting for things to happen.
Overall, I must admit that I did think this film was really good. The Invitation presents its admittedly simplistic story in a way that for the most part keeps you engaged and wondering what will happen next. The horrific events that take place in the film’s third act are enhanced by the reality that things like this can and do happen, effectively hitting close to home. As stated at the beginning of this post, at the time of writing The Invitation is on Netflix and I would highly recommend giving it a watch.