So this fellow movie buff friend of mine recommends me this new film called The Invitation, a low-budget horror/psychological thriller supposedly about a dinner party. I checked out the trailer — which was brilliantly put together — and still had no idea what the film was about.
If you watched the above you might have gotten the sense I got — it’s eerie and tense and very unsettling overall. In other words, my kind of movie. Setting-wise, it reminded me of the excellent 2013 sci-fi flick Coherence, which was also about a dinner party that goes pear shaped.
Okay, so I don’t want to give away anything, but this is a film where it might help to understand the premise a little more so you don’t get confused. Essentially, it’s about a guy named Will (Logan Marshall-Green, who was in Prometheus) who gets invited to a dinner party by his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard from Into the Woods, Moneyball and Blue Jasmine) and her new partner (Michiel Huisman from Game of Thrones) out of the blue, many years after their marriage was torn apart by a tragedy.
There are a bunch of old friends and strangers there, as dinner parties often do, but all throughout the evening Will can’t shake the feeling that something’s just off. We as the audience are led to believe that it could the hosts, the guests, or Will himself, or it could be just all in everyone’s heads.
The Invitation is a slow burn that gradually peels away the layers like an onion. The paranoia and tension are undeniable, fuelled by moments of strange behaviour, awkwardness and hints of sinister motivations. Director Karyn Kusama (best known for Girlfight and Jennifer’s Body) has a knack for creating a somewhat surreal and almost dreamlike atmosphere, where things appear normal but your intuition tells you something is wrong with the picture.
The performances also deserve a lot of credit for contributing to the unsettling atmosphere, with Logan-Marshall, Blanchard and Huisman all doing a solid job of keeping audiences interested. Well, at least it kept me interested enough to stick with it through the 99-minute running time, which felt a little long, to be honest.
Kudos for creating something out of very little, but for all its originality and creativity The Invitation is, in my opinion, overrated. A 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 78% on Metacritic suggest something more remarkable than what the film actually delivers. Yes, it is unnerving at times and makes you feel uncomfortable, though I felt the direction the film was heading in was quite easy to predict through some common-sense reasoning. And there’s no denying that the film is slow — really slow at times — and the only thing holding up our patience is the apparent promise of a twist or some kind of impending disaster.
So on the whole, The Invitation is a film worth checking out if this kind of slow-burning, claustrophobic experience is your cup of tea. But in my view, the inevitable payoff isn’t enough to justify the lengthy and repetitive lead-up. It’s still an interesting movie, though it left me hoping it could have been a lot more.
3.25 stars out of 5