A few years back I sat down with the Diablo Cody penned horror flick Jennifer’s Body. Not a high point in my horror viewing career (at this point the only way I can refer to the countless hours of consuming horror flicks is by calling it a career or else I will cry…), but through the horrid millennial driven dialogue and ham-fisted acting (Megan Fox playing a vapid teenager is like Klaus Kinski playing a schizophrenic on crank… it ‘s just perfect…) I saw a director who had some skills. Karyn Kusama (also helmed Girlfight and Aeon Flux) managed to take an awful script and delivered a flick that ended up being entertaining (Look I ain’t saying it was Citizen Kane, but I didn’t hate the thing!). Kusama has some skills and definitely can handle SFX heavy flicks, but how does she handle a small character driven flick like The Invitation?
Will (Logan Marshall-Green) is at (what I assume) is every man’s worse nightmare: A dinner party hosted by his ex-wife, Eden ( Tammy Blanchard) and her current partner, David ( Michiel Huisman). At least it’s not like they split up two years ago because the death of a child or anything horrific like that… Oh wait. In what he hopes will be a a night of closure and possibly re-connect with old friends. Too bad he can’t shake this crazy feeling that not everything is on the “up – n – up”. A few unexpected guest show up (one played by the always fantastic John Carroll Lynch) and the revelation that David and Eden had joined The Invitation, a cult based around dealing with grief led by Dr.Joseph (Toby Huss). As quick as you can say,”Shit storm is about to hit the fan”, Will starts to get the sense that not everything is right. Maybe Will is just overcome with emotions having to finally confront the loss of his son? Or maybe everything isn’t what it seems and his hosts having something more than a reunion in mind.
Will has distance himself from his old life after his son’s death lead to his Eden’s breakdown and now everything is coming to a head. Logan Marshall-Green (who has always been an acting badass) is delivering a performance of his career. Will is all over the map emotionally. Dealing with the everything that comes rushing back seeing his old life is only made worse by the “off” behavior of his hosts. Will is suspicious of his host and no one else seems to share this feeling. Why does David insist on locking the door from the inside? Why are members of The Invitation there? And (worst of all) Why does Eden seem unaffected by the loss of their son? You know one way or another this evening is ending badly.
Eden and David are warm and inviting, but seem a little to “nice” and way to eager to start spouting off about The Invitation. Michiel Huisman and Tammy Blanchard are the nicest creepsters to ever host a dinner party. The night had sex cult swinger club written all over it. Most likely why everyone was sticking around (it’s why I would… What can I say? I’ve never been invited to a sex cult swinger club!). Even with everything that’s going on it makes sense why Will would doubt his self. It’s been two years since he has seen this chapter of his life and everyone keeps telling him “Of course it’s going to be weird” Who could trust themselves at this point. The beauty of all this is you are never a 100% sure which way it is. And that keeps things tense. That is until the climax when all is revealed. No spoilers here, but know that the last act is reveals all and the final scene is a jaw-dropping.
Too be fair I have only ever seen one of Kusama’s films (the aforementioned Jennifer’s Body) so I only have that to compare her work with. While Jennifer’s Body was a more straight forward genre flick, The Invitation is where Kusama flexes her directing muscles. Dealing with topics like loss, grief and forgiveness The Invitation goes deeper than the standard “a group of people in remote location and then horrible stuff happens” formula. Focused more on establishing her characters and setting an eerie and foreboding atmosphere Kusama brings us one of the most tense and terrifying movies of the year.
The Invitation is available on VOD and select theaters starting today!