Something Sean has brought up a few times in his reviews is that fact that he hasn’t felt like he’s been reviewing horror movies a lot, and I was kind of expecting to write off The Invitation as one of those cases, as a lot of the film does carry more of a thriller vibe for much of its running time. However, like a lot of horror movies it upends whatever real-world believability it had by the end, as things go way off the deep end into crazytown. And after re-watching Rosemary’s Baby a week ago, I’ve been reminded that a lot of my favorite horror movies often don’t feel like horror movies, as they create a believable world for it’s characters to live in, before inevitably letting the blood hit the fan.
A lot of The Invitation‘s appeal relies on it’s slow parceling out of information about its characters and their circumstances, and as the film starts, we don’t know much. Will (played by Logan Marshall-Green, looking very much like Tom Hardy), arrives with his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corineald) at a swanky house party that’s attended by a bunch of old friends, a lot of whose relationships aren’t made clear for a while. We then learn that one of the party’s guests, Eden (Tammy Blanchard) is Will’s ex-wife, and that their marriage suffered a quite tragic ending. Things get weirder when John Carol Lynch shows up to this party being thrown by otherwise young and attractive people, and they start talking about this cult-like group many of them have joined known as The Invitation. All the while, Will starts to suspect that something strange is going on here.
As I said, a lot of The Invitation relies on the way it hides information and milks as much tension out of the unknown as possible, and whether Will is just being paranoid or is actually on to something. So in a lot of regards, this tension can be attributed to the film’s script, though Karyn Kasuma’s direction also has just enough unnerving flourishes to keep you on edge. And I also appreciate that even by the end of the film’s bloody climax, there’s still a fair amount of ambiguity here, as many questions have been answered, but the specifics of them still remain a little blurry.
I guess if I have one gripe with the movie, it’s that some of the acting left a little to be desired. I mean, it’s hard to expect much from a movie in the acting department that has a fair amount of pulpy elements, which The Invitation does. It’s just that the film goes to the trouble of making these feel like real fleshed-out characters, and I don’t know that I was totally in love with hanging out with them for the first half of this film, before things started getting weird.
Or maybe I just didn’t like looking at second-rate Tom Hardy’s bro-beard along with his considerably stiff screen presence. Then again, considering the way this film pans out, you could easily justify some of the film’s not-quite-believable acting as a plot device, since many of the characters are all just playing a part. Which might seem like a lazy justification, but in this case I think actually does add another layer to the movie. It just doesn’t help when the one guy who’s not playing a part is maybe the least charismatic actor out of the whole cast. Though as you could probably imagine, John Carol Lynch is delightfully creepy in all the ways you would expect/want him to be.
Still, whatever you think of the film’s acting, the way things unfold in the movie’s second half is just about as impactful as you’d want it to be (again, I’m trying to take a page from The Invitation and be vague here). And because you’ve spent a fair amount of time’s with these characters and have been given just enough reason to think that shit is going to go down, it’s both an equal mix of shocking and satisfying when said shit does go down. Again, I know I’m being very vague about this, but even though it probably won’t end up making my top ten, it’s a movie that was released in 2016 that’s worth seeing before year’s end. That is, if we all make it that far…
“Guys! What do I have to do to convince you I’m not Tom Hardy!”