“The Invitation” isn’t your standard horror film, but rather a suspense thriller that’s done in such a perfect way it makes for a great changeup to watch this Halloween season.
The indie film, written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, and directed to perfection by Karyn Kusama, depicts the strange events happening at a seemingly routine dinner party at a lavish house nestled in the Hollywood hills.
What Karyn Kusama does in masterful form is create a tension that slowly builds and keeps the viewer, and the stories protagonist Will, on the brink of paranoia throughout the picture. The first two-thirds of the story is literally just a group of old friends at a dinner party – but filmed so well you will want to keep watching.
It’s a long overdue reunion of close friends, and Will (Logan Marshall-Green) will be returning to his former home, as the party is being hosted by his ex-wife and her new beau. Tension is displayed from the onset, from the obvious as Will sees Eden (Tammy Blanchard) for the first time in over two years and meets David (Michiel Huisman) who resembles a physically better-looking version of himself.
Deeper rooted emotions are explored through flashbacks we experience with Will that depict his former life in the house, and a tragic event that brought his marriage to a conclusion. Every room in the house stirs a strong and sour memory for Will and it’s a perfect balance of present and past emotions that mix together and make the story and its accompanying tension progress.
Logan Marshall-Green is perfect as Will, who brings the right amount of laid back demeanor to the character. Will obviously loved Eden at one time, and probably still does a little, as we all surely do when encountering a flame of the past. And his raw skills when experiencing the flashbacks is a thing of perfection. No room or hallway or turn in Will’s old house is safe from his mind.
The rapport between all of the friends is real, and makes for the genuine tones of the movie. We truly believe this group of seven have been through a lot of good and bad times together over the years, and while the focus is on Will and his new girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), each of the other characters is sufficiently developed in a limited amount of time.
What makes “The Invitation” such an inviting film is the layered amount of tension that simmers throughout, like a pot of boiling water on the stove waiting to erupt. Will is seeing his ex wife for the first time in years – in the house he used to live in with her – and meeting her new lover. These events in themselves are enough of an emotional burden to carry a story, and as the movie progresses, it teeters the line of being a dark comedy.
But make no mistake. “The Invitation” is a chilling thriller, and once the initial pleasantries from Wills arrival are over, the strangeness sets in. David’s mysterious friend Pruitt (John Carroll Lynch) arrives and delivers a perfect portrayal of an outsider attempting (or not) to mingle with close friends. The windows in the house have bars. The door is kept locked from the inside. There’s no cellular reception and the land line is said to be out of order.
As a series of strange things start to unravel, we watch from Wills perspective and come to the obvious conclusion that something else is going on. Or is there? “Something is wrong here.” Will says to one of his friends after witnessing peculiar things at the party. “I don’t feel safe.” But as we plod though we are never fully sure what, if anything, is happening. Is there something sinister going on, or is Will just mentally unstable?
“The Invitation” is a great film that analytical types will enjoy just as much as a layman. Its suspenseful and imminent, and very well crafted on all levels.
by ~ Matt DeCristo