A man accepts an invitation to a dinner party from his ex-wife and her new husband, and awkwardness ensues, but he worries that they’ve planned something far more sinister.
Similar to some of the other films I’ve reviewed during this year’s 31 Days of Reviews, The Invitation debuted at the SXSW festival in March of 2015. It received a limited release in 2016, and it currently can be viewed on Netflix streaming.
Directed by Karyn Kusama, who has directed previous work including Æon Flux and Jennifer’s Body, The Invitation stars Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus), Tammy Blanchard (Into the Woods), and Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones). The film also stars John Carroll Lynch. By all means, the cast is great.
The Invitation begins with Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his new girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) on their way to a dinner party, hosted by Will’s ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard). Will and Eden divorced many years previously, and Eden met her new husband David (Michiel Huisman) in a grief support group. Prior to this party, no one has seen or heard from Eden in two years.
On the way to the party, Will and Kira’s car hits a coyote. Will kills the coyote as an act of mercy, and the opening credits begin to roll. This whole set up was a great way to really show the audience that this night is not going to go smoothly. It immediately puts you on edge, like, if this has already happened, what else could possibly go wrong?
To top it off, the opening credits are accompanied by some very off-putting music. It puts you on edge. Your nerves are heightened. It just feels like something is off. Why did Will accept this invitation? What is planned for this night? My mind was racing with all the possibilities that could ensue.
Overwhelmingly, The Invitation is more of a mystery and a drama than anything else. As a viewer, you are uncovering details about Will and Eden’s life before things went sour. At the same time, you’re seeing all of these things that Will is seeing that show you that something just isn’t right. The majority of the movie plays out this way, keeping you on edge and intricately painting a picture of something sinister.
One thing that I really loved about it was that for most of the film, I couldn’t really tell what it was. Do Eden and David have something horrible planned for all of the guests of this party? Is Will on edge because he can’t let go, causing him to misinterpret everything around him? Does the story have something surprising planned? For most of the film, I found myself wondering… What was the end game?
In the end, when the puzzle is finally put together, it switches genres. It definitely becomes more of a thriller, but that’s only at the very end. The majority of the film is a slow, intricate drama with hints of mystery. Overall, I enjoyed it.
There were definitely some things that I could have done without in The Invitation. It felt a bit too long. There were some scenes, and maybe even some characters, that didn’t need to be there. At a couple of points, I disconnected from the story because the tension was broken, and I had to find a way to get myself back into it. The Invitation is definitely a slow burn. I could see a lot of people not liking it for that reason.
From a technical standpoint, some of the lighting seemed a bit off to me, specifically at the beginning when Will and Kira are driving. It made me feel like the rest of the film was going to be produced in a similar way, but things got better as the movie progressed. It also felt like some of the continuity was a bit off, and this might throw viewers off a bit.
I mentioned earlier that the cast is pretty great. I thought the acting was spot on. I was impressed by Logan Marshall-Green’s performance. I had only seen him in Prometheus and Devil previously, so it was nice to see a bit more from him in this film. I was invested in all of the performances. Each actor fit their character well.
Overall, I would definitely recommend The Invitation to someone who was looking for a bit of a sophisticated mystery. It’s not for a casual viewer who is looking for something to have playing while they multi-task. You’ll get lost or bored with the story if you don’t have the time to invest in watching it.
I felt scared through a large portion of The Invitation, even when there was nothing to be scared of. It’s unnerving. You feel a sense of dread while watching that you just can’t pinpoint. Other than the few problems I noted above, I enjoyed the story being told. There’s an overall creepy atmosphere that I hope you like as much as I did.