Quick Hit: Haunting and chilling, with an uninviting core of wrongness.
What if your ex invited you to a dinner party with your old crowd of friends and the person she left you for? Would you attend the party or would you continue to go about your life and politely ignore the advance? That is the beginning notion that lies under Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, but there is so much more that lies beckoning beneath the surface. The gist is just that – Will (Logan Marshall-Green of Upgrade) is invited with his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) to have a dinner with his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband, David (Michiel Huisman). But what happens is telegraphed from the opening moments of the movie, when Will must kill a coyote struck by his car – sometimes, there is death and terror in the smallest of moments.
The Invitation starts off with this dramatic moment, and continues onward into the dinner, but none of the unease ever disapates. In fact, with each passing minute of the film, and with each continued reveal from Eden and Will’s troubled past, you find yourself settling against a profound wall of unease that seems to be growing taller by the second. This incredible piece of dramatic storytelling finds a way to build higher thanks to very strong performances by the cast, particularly the long haired Marshall-Green and the blissfully wispy Blanchard. But I think a few things really stand out when it comes to the tension of the story.
First, the screenplay is incredibly well-written. It comes off like a crime thriller in that clues are slowly given to the audience to piece together and attempt to figure out. There is a locking of a door here, the hidden exit of a friend there, the addition of a cultish video for “The Invitation”, a self-help group that Eden and David have joined to help them deal with their grief. It’s excellent in the way it parses out these tidbits exactly at the moments you need them, and the rest of the film is filled with moments that make you extremely uncomfortable – be it through social interactions or the inevitable finale that forms towards the end of the film.
Next, the sound work in this film is nearly as good as any dramatic thriller I’ve seen. Similar to the physical representations of the clues, there is just as much of a clue in the sound that occur throughout the movie. Whether it’s the brisk pop of a slap to the face, or the dramatic intake of breath from someone uncomfortable with the course of a “game”, the sounds are there to take you on a ride. All of this is buoyed triumphantly by Theodore Shapiro. His haunting, understated score builds a feeling of unease inside you, even when there is simply a group of friends talking and drinking some wine. It’s a very impressive bit of work.
The film builds to a conclusion that is a bit more manic than I would have liked, and ends with a lingering shot that is not out of place, but feels a bit cheap after the delicious dish of movie that had preceded it. I really enjoyed this sick show of a movie, and it made me terribly uncomfortable. I’m giving it an “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"