Title: The Invitation
Rating: Not Rated
Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michiel Huisman
Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes
What It Is: A dinner party reunion of estranged friends sets the stage for director Karyn Kusama’s unnerving and warped micro-horror The Invitation.
What We Think: The film is constructed with an unremitting build of paranoia. The threat of something sinister is always purring beneath the alternating niceties and tensions shared between these characters’ fractured attempts at reconnection. The mutual social awkwardness only heightens the conflicting audience notions that either something is indeed amiss or that maybe the threat is all imagined, making for a disorienting spooky vibe. Kusama and her standby editor Plummy Tucker craft the film to be somewhat languorous in a way that lets the malevolent tone take deep root thanks to its deliberate, impenetrable force. These scares are heady but really effective. Where a standard slasher would have you screaming at the victims on the screen to not run upstairs or not investigate a strange noise, The Invitation frustrates for how its apparently rational characters stay put. Plausibility is strained to its bare fibers and character rationalizations fall flat in the weakest moments of an otherwise clever and sturdy screenplay. But it’s not all psychosis and suggestion – that slow build can only take so much until the film’s tension becomes like a spot ready to burst. The fallout is fast and exciting without compromising any of the established character dynamics that made the first two acts so compelling. If the film’s final payoff isn’t particularly inventive or unique, it makes up for it with its unwavering confidence and a gasp-inducing final moment.
Our Grade: B, Director Karyn Kusama creates, sustains and, over the course of the film, ratchets up the awkward tension from scene to scene with such a skillful hand that you want to look away or make it stop multiple times throughout the film. And when things finally take a massive left turn and the movie descends into an even darker place, it does slightly feel a bit of a letdown but those first two scenes are that good you end up forgiving it. I wholeheartedly recommend seeing this, it brought to mind The Kill List and had a Hitchcockian vibe to it which is the best compliment I can give it.