Review: The Invitation
These days it is incredibly hard to find a thriller that holds your interests and plays on your fears or insecurities. Karyn Kusama's The Invitation does just that. It'll work it's way through you making you as uncomfortable as possible and maybe even a little awkward but all the while you are that much more intrigued to see the very next scene. The journey that is laid out for the viewer in this film is unlike anything that I have seen in quite sometime. The most surprising thing about this movie is how under the radar it has been, granted it is an independent film which won't get the media coverage that other films get but this is a tremendous film in every aspect. Karyn Kusama behind the camera is an unknown much like her cast as she has done films such as Jennifer's Body and Aeon Flux. The true surprise is that the writers who expertly crafted a film rooted in dread had a rather unimpressive resume. Ultimately, it all comes together and forms one of the best thrillers that I have seen in years. Beyond that, it is also one of the most disturbing experiences that I have had in my life, yet, I enjoyed every second of it. It is that unique of a film.
The plot follows Will (Logan Marshall-Green) who takes his current girlfriend Kira to a dinner party that his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Flanagan) and her new husband had invited them to. Before the invitation, Will had no contact with her up to that point. The two had suffered a great tragedy that still haunts them to this day. Will carries it with him, while Eden seems perfectly fine with her new husband. Will is greeted by old friends that he hasn't seen in quite some time. At the dinner party, Will begins to become more and more uncomfortable and unsettled believing that something more sinister is afoot. However, due to his emotional instability, the viewer is led to question whether his narrative is reliable or not.
To say the least, it is a slow burn as more and more happens throughout the film. The amount of dread is palpable but the viewer is put off balance considering it is all told from the point of view of Will who isn't exactly stable. There are scenes throughout the film that show him walking throughout the house remembering his past with Eden and what he had lost. In one instance it would show him working through his grief and the next it would add to constant theme of dread. It creates an incredible awkward and uncomfortable experience for the viewer. The most impressive aspect of the film is how it is filmed and edited. Kusama put a lot of thought into each frame and how it is all presented. For instance, in the beginning when Will shows up, the house seems very open and inviting. The colors present are vibrant and light, but as the film descends deeper and deeper into this overwhelming feeling of dread the house begins to feel claustrophobic. The colors are darker, the halls are thin and everything feels tight. It is such a small thing, but it helps add a feeling of insecurity. The writers on the other hand do a great job with the dialogue which all feels very real. The friends at the party help add as almost a distraction from the uncomfortability and dread. Yet the conversations Will has with Eden or his own girlfriend Kira about how to deal with his own grief is well written and easily relatable.
Another strong aspect of The Invitation would be that of the cast. None of the actors are instantly recognizable by any means as they mostly have been in supporting roles in their careers. This helps the audience in a sense as thrillers tend to have bigger stars which leads the audience to believe that that character would then be safe. The lack of a recognizable face helps in putting off the viewer. The true star of the film is obviously Logan Marshall-Green in the role of Will. The entire film you could say hinges on his performance and he delivers incredibly well. He balances the suspicions he has along with his own paranoia very well. Deep down he knows whatever he sees could be written off easily as a hallucination or something he wants to see, which Marshall-Green portrays beautifully. He has such an internal struggle that is truly captivating. The rest of the cast is also impressive in their roles. Eden's new husband, David (Michiel Huisman) who at first seems charming but as the film goes on and as Will's suspicions continue to grow you then begin to mistake David's charm for something else. You begin to question whether or not his intentions are pure. All in all the character work, the direction, the writing and the journey throughout the film is something I have not seen in a long time. It pains me that this film had not received more global attention as it beats anything that is put out on the big screen. Big screen thrillers are incredibly formulaic and predictable while The Invitation bucks that trend. A five out of five stars is a rarity for me, however, The Invitation is incredibly deserving of it.