'The Invitation' Is Psychological Horror At Its Slow-Burning Best

By James Jay Edwards
Released: April 22, 2016
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While attending a dinner party at his former home, a man thinks his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister intentions for their guests.

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Film Review
I was recently discussing The Invitation with a couple of my fellow film critics who hadn't seen it, and as I was telling them what it was about one of them stopped me and said "you've said too much already." And he was absolutely right. It's best to go into a movie like The Invitation with as little prior knowledge as possible. For those who wish to experience the movie with fresh eyes and ears, skip the next paragraph. For those who need a plot rundown, and I mean a basic, no-spoiler rundown, read on.

The Invitation begins with a man named Will (Logan Marshall-Green from Prometheus) and his new girlfriend, Kira (Miles Ahead's Emayatzy Corinealdi) driving out to the home of Will's ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard from Into the Woods), and her new husband, David (Michiel Huisman from The Age of Adaline), both of whom have been living off-the-grid for the last two years. When Will and Kira arrive, they find that a full-on dinner party is underway, with all of Will's old friends in attendance. It's an awkward reunion of sorts, made even more uncomfortable by the questions that are on everyone's minds - where have Eden and David been for the last two years, and who are the two strangers that are also at the party (played by Digging for Fire's Lindsay Burdge and John Carroll Lynch from "American Horror Story")?

The Invitation, Photo Courtesy Drafthouse Films.

Directed by Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body) and written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (the duo behind the Ride Along movies and R.I.P.D.), The Invitation is a movie that really has to been seen to be believed. It combines elements of several horror subgenres - home invasion, slasher, psychological horror, even a little bit of whodunit - into something that is completely fresh and unique. The movie essentially takes place in real time, unfolding slowly and deliberately, giving the audience glimpses and peeks at the whole picture without ever spelling things out for them entirely. There's a lot of talk in the movie, but there are also a lot of things that go unsaid yet are perfectly understood. The Invitation is a rare horror movie, one that gives the viewer enough information to assemble the pieces themselves instead of insultingly spoon-feeding every last plot point to them.

As stated earlier, The Invitation is best approached from a blind perspective, so in the interest of preserving the experience, this review will be short. But see The Invitation. It's one of the best movies of the year, horror or otherwise.
Scary Factor
The Invitation is the very definition of slow-burn horror, and director Karyn Kusama does not just use it as an excuse to have nothing happen for long stretches of the movie. There are several different layers of fear that are playing out in the movie. There's the fear of the unknown, with none of the party guests knowing exactly what they're doing there or who they can trust. There's the suspicion that is aroused by the two strangers whom none of the guests have ever seen before. Of course, there are small bursts of violence to keep the audience on its toes, but most of the terror is the result of a carefully crafted atmosphere of maddening suspense. I can already sense the backlash that the film is going to receive from naysayers; similar to how fans lambasted The Witch and It Follows for not being scary enough, there will be those who have the same problem with The Invitation, because it's not THAT kind of scary. The ideas and concepts are scarier than the events and situations. But, there's more horror in a single facial expression in The Invitation than there is in a thousand of Jason Voorhees' machete blades. You may not lose any sleep over it, but you won't soon forget it, either.

The Invitation, Photo Courtesy Drafthouse Films.

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Horror, Thriller
Release Date
April 22, 2016
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