REVIEW — “The Invitation”
From the opening scene, “The Invitation” creates an eery and overwhelming sense of dread and uncertainty. It wonderfully, creepily encapsulates it, and escalates it, for 100 minutes of fantastic terror and psychological horror. It begins at a dinner party for Will (Logan-Marshall Green)’s ex-girlfriend, and he has his new girlfriend by his side. From the get-go something is unusual. There’s a silent mystery of despair in the air, but the film sweetly takes its time to slowly unravel what actually went down. On top of that, as the night goes on, he begins to suspect that his ex and her new husband might be planning something sinister for him and his old friends.
What I love about this film is that it’s so wonderfully unconventional compared to most self-contained thrillers. Director Karyn Kusama quite brilliantly builds up the mood and tone of the film, through the eery score and stylish cinematography, but most impressively creates an interesting perspective for the main character. You can clearly see that Will’s ex and her new husband and friends are unstable and hiding something, but as the film goes along you learn the trauma that Will has endured; This makes you question his perception. Within that, you question how YOU are perceiving and suspecting things, and trusting this guy just because he’s the main character – when he is pretty clearly mentally unstable.
I appreciate that when the film finally addresses the answer to what’s going on, and whether or not Will’s suspicion is valid, it doesn’t turn one sided or become unrealistic. From beginning to end, the film maintains a really unique and realistic tone and pace, which makes the horror beats all the more appreciative when it finally hits. Following off of that, I’m not necessarily easy to scare in the slightest.. but, this film perfectly uses sound and suspense to make the scares effective and genuinely frightening. I jumped quite a bit in the third act, but even aside from physically jumping its imagery and meaning is even more scary, and is bound to crawl underneath your skin.
If I had to nitpick only slightly, I’d say that the film doesn’t necessarily feature the best performances from its side characters. I’m usually a bit more understanding of that in low-budget horror films, but for such an enclosed thriller, some of them were a little too broad to ignore. John Caroll Lynch is always a pleasure to see, however. I love seeing him ham it up in a creepy role; and Logan-Marshall Green is fantastic as the lead, delivering a deeply emotional and nuanced performance. Overall, despite a few poor side characters, “The Invitation” is a completely unique and beautifully directed horror/drama hybrid that wonderfully explores grief, and toys with your paranoia and perception from start to finish. 4/5.