The Invitation (2015)
Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival. For more information visit sxsw.com and follow SXSW on Twitter at @sxsw.
Some of the best horror/thriller films start with a plausible premise. When a filmmaker takes an every day situation we can all relate to, that has the workings of a classic that that genre lovers will re-visit many times. The Invitation is set during a lavish dinner party and the hosts dance a fine line between creepy and hospitable.
The film opens with a couple en route to a dinner party. We learn that Will (Logan Marshall-Green) divorced the hostess, Eden (Tammy Blanchard) who is now with David (Michiel Huisman). Will and his new girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) find it odd that David and Eden have invited their old group of friends over for a party when it’s been two years since any of them has seen each other. The reason they have all been apart is due to the divorce between Will and Eden, which is centered on an unknown tragic event.
The script is taut, sharp and beautifully suspenseful thanks to the work put in by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi.
The introduction of each party guest is a clever way of establishing each character. Exposition is not forced; it’s just plain good manners to be friendly to Kira who is a newcomer to the group. The group has the makings of a typical group of lifelong friends. Everyone puts on their best smile and is there to have a good time. From the opening frame, Will is suspicious of the entire event. He finds it odd that his ex-wife settled so quickly in the place he once called home. David is well aware that Will is uncomfortable and like two alpha males, the two of them trade wits and demonstrate a power struggle in the nicest possible way given the circumstances. The party takes a sudden shift when new characters are introduced and when David and Eden show an informational video that dances a fine line between self-help and cult recruitment.
Director Karyn Kusama pays careful attention to building each character. The audience is given just enough to know which characters to root for and which characters will make the hairs rise on the back of our necks. The script is taut, sharp and beautifully suspenseful thanks to the work put in by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. The trio knows when to feed the audience and when to keep the audience in the dark.
The entire experience will have you on the edge of your seat and you won’t always know why.
Huisman is a working actor who stands out from the group. His charisma, hospitality and friendliness dabble into creepy, unnerving and charming. He fully fleshes out the character of David. Will plays the voice, eyes and ears of the audience. We see everything going on, yet we’re cautious of what’s happening. Since the party takes place among good company in a fancy home, everyone is on their best behavior. It takes everything within Will to refrain from stating what is on his mind.
The entire experience will have you on the edge of your seat and you won’t always know why. Some may lose interest after the opening act, but let me reassure you that the finale is a deliciously, wicked good time at the movies. The less we say about the film, the better but The Invitation will leave audiences with much to chew on. This film will appeal to mystery/thriller fans as well as horror fans. It’s a joy to watch unfold because it’s a true labor of love. For a dose of something on the wild side, give this film a try.
The less we say about the film, the better but The Invitation will leave audiences with much to chew on. For a dose of something on the wild side, give this film a try.