Dinner with your ex-wife is always going to be awkward. It’s even weirder when you haven’t seen her for two years, and she appears to have spent that time joining a cult with her new lover. But you know, nice to catch up and all.
Dinner parties from hell are a rich vein to mine for the world. Whether it leads to home invasions or downright awkwardness, they clasp onto something we all recognise and twist it to unsettle us. It’s that twist which makes The Invitation a thrilling watch. It very quickly becomes apparent for both the watcher and our protagonist Will (Logan Marshall-Green and the ex-husband to the aforementioned ex-wife) that something is wrong, but what that wrongness is, is another mystery entirely.
Directed by Karyn Kusama, there is a comparison to be made between this film and The Gift. Both take place in these incredible houses that should be paradise on earth. However, in the dark of night with the lights dimmed low they take on a much more sinister edge. Those large empty rooms are suddenly threatening and you kind of wish the neighbours were close enough to peek in the window.
It’s also a fascinating study of how far we are willing to go to be polite. Even as it becomes more and more apparent that something is fucked up here, Will is the only one who is prepared to say a thing. As our hosts, Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and David (Michiel Huisman), unveil more and more of their disturbed philosophies the other guests smile and nod. Acting as if they’re explaining how they’ve discovered a taste for Mexican food and shushing any protests to the contrary. They’re so obsessed with not being rude, that they miss what’s right in front of them.
On top of that, the final twist is wrapped up in the consequences of grief. In the idea that when we hit rock bottom, we will turn to anything to make things better. It’s a surprisingly subtle and thought out premise for a film that is at its heart a low budget horror.
The Invitation is a flawed film. The acting is occasionally wooden, and it loses its way a bit in the final ten-twenty minutes. Before that, however, Kusama does an excellent job of putting together a tense little thriller that leaves you wanting to bolt the doors and cancel any plans you have to see those friends that have been off the radar in recent times.
Verdict: Hall of Fame