The Invitation online movie review - well structured, intense and character driven
The Invitation (2015) directed by Karyn Kusama and written by the team of Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi is an instant classic.
written with structure and restraint and directed with elegance, this is a real slow burner of a horror mystery. this film is very well crafted and an extremely refreshing tale, in a time where found footage horror and jump scares flood the market without shame. the director Karyn Kusama most recently directed Jennifer's body in 2009 which was a mediocre effort at best, but also previously directed the messy sci-fi action film Aeon Flux in the year 2005 and the excellent girlfight in the year 2000. so by looking at her resume we have one good film, one mediocre film and one terrible film. so expectations were low going into The Invitation. regardless of expectations though this film achieves everything it needed to and more. by doing so it also put Kusama back on the map as a director that should be held in high regard.
starring Logan Marshall-Green, Emayatzy Corinealdi, and Michiel Huisman the film tells the story of a couple who are invited to a dinner party by some old friends. the evening ends up being something far more sinister and evil than they could have ever imagined. the script is written with a lot of depth and a few very prominent thematic elements. these elements being the power of grief and negativity, the fear of death, and finding happiness. each of the main characters are all written with depth and their inner struggles contribute to the plot in an essential way in the context of the narrative. I spoke of restraint earlier in the review in terms of the writing. by this I am referring mostly to the backstory of our main character Will played by Logan Marshall-Green. for the majority of the film the director chooses to put us in his shoes and utilizes expository visuals and flashbacks to communicate his backstory. this is done with true mastery and really adds to the realism and psychological torture of the character. the relationship between Will and Eden (played by Tammy Blanchard) is excellent and acts as a pivotal plot point that's used to develop the narrative and strengthen the theme and tone of the film. the true beauty of the script is that it's so character driven and grounded in realism. it chooses not to take the easy way out by using silly and unrealistic means to develop the plot. instead it uses the emotional and physical interactions of it's characters to propel the plot forward while keeping it grounded in realism and genuine mystery. not a singular scene is wasted, each scene is essential is providing the viewer with a good sense of who each character is and making their motivations seem real and genuine. Will acts as almost a detective, he (like the viewer) senses something strange about the situation and does his best to search for clues to try and stop what he senses is coming all the while discovering something about himself that he may not have fully been able to come to terms with. his own grief. just as you think Will has everything figured out and he's caught the hosts in the act the script comes in and throws another curve ball at you and ups the suspense another notch until it becomes unbearable. while the movie tries its best to develop Will mostly, it still manages to develop his ex wife Eden quite a bit as well. not every single character gets as much time to develop as Will and Eden but as I have already mentioned they all have their own motives that are grounded in reality, which adds up to a totally cohesive and immersive character driven horror mystery. there's a scene where the guests all sit down and play a game where they all say something they want. this gives the character of Pruitt played by John Carroll Lynch a chance to deliver a haunting and unnerving monologue that involves his relationship with his wife. what a scene this was. it's rare that a scene becomes as captivating as that one. all of the acting is also great. from both the supporting cast as well as the leads. many if not all of our actors are capable of showing believable emotions without even speaking. many scenes involve heavy amounts of dialogue and each interaction is written very well with some excellent and suspenseful direction.
the suspense in the film is not your traditional style of suspense that you would expect from a horror film. while yes near the end of the movie we do get some of that traditional cat and mouse intense suspense, for most of the movie the suspense stems from the excellently written, wonderfully paced slow burning mystery and the unpredictability of the subject matter within the dialogue heavy scenes. one minute the guests are all laughing and carrying on the next minute, within the same scene we get a subtle tonal shift into something dark and serious and thought provoking. on top of all of this the direction is nothing short of amazing. slow tension building close up shots that immerse you into the dark and unnerving stories being told. still shots with the right things left totally out of frame until the perfect moment to get full effectiveness out of the scene. hallway shots with excellent lighting to create distance and atmosphere. I can go on and on. the film also has a wonderful and mesmerizing score that creates even more tension and atmosphere. the ending was also great. suspenseful, thrilling, horrifying and perfect.
the verdict: 10/10