The Invitation is a 2015 thriller written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredini, directed by Karyn Kusama and stars Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman and Emayatzy Corinealdi. The film is slow build, tense thriller about a dinner party going awry.
We have all had the experience where we meet friends from a while ago who seem a bit too happy or a bit too off compared to who they used to be. The film uses the home a couple who have returned from a two-year vacation in Mexico as the setting. A bunch of friends of the couple come into a dinner party hosted by the duo in question as a chance to see each other and reconnect as friends.
Straight from the first shot, the movie has a very subdued tone and a cool grim colour pallet a la a David Fincher film. The bunch of friends, as we are introduced to them, seem nice and normal. A group of friends any person would have. The lead character played by Logan Marshall-Green or just call him discount Tom Hardy feels as if something is amiss from the moment he sets foot in the house. Are his suspicions true or is his fragile mental state playing a trick on him in an uncomfortable claustrophobic situation is the primary ride the film takes the viewer on.
First things first, the film is gloriously well shot. The tone of film owes a lot to the camerawork on display. Tension is slowly but surely built over these very placed shots and a lot of story along with character motivations come through via visual storytelling techniques. The slow build of only one character feeling uneasy and the extents people go to, to not be rude to a hospitable host are clearly well done. It is a task to review a movie which requires the audience going into it as blank slates. Any let on about the plot would genuinely ruin a person’s viewing experience. To talk about the uneasiness of being in the home of a person who seems unsettling with every word and action that he does would not be a problem. It is the type of question each and every person would have asked himself at any point in time, am I crazy or is the world around me walking into a trap without their knowledge.
As a critique on the film’s overall storytelling techniques and technical prowess however, the sound/music department let the film dip in quality at a few instances. A handful of sudden silences and some bad choices in score reduce the tension the film is going for. The storytelling aspect suffers a small bit as the main character seems suspicious from the get go and the couple seem a bit too happy to be taken on their word. Think of it as a friend who always wants to show you the brighter side of life no matter the gravity of the situation. You wouldn’t take him on his word as easily and would try to figure out his motivations behind such off beat behaviour.
A couple of small gripes aside, The Invitation is a genuinely tense and eerie film. It has a tight concise script which was built to be a slow thriller with an intense payoff. Even though the film doesn’t deliver on one of those, the other side makes up for it in a huge way. It is a treat for psychological thriller fans, as they can chew into the scenery and the unsettling atmosphere and wait patiently for a story to unfold. For everyone else, take some time, get cosy in your seats and use this movie as an entry point to a whole new genre of film.
OVERALL SCORE – 3/5