The phrase “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” would translate fairly well to my hesitation to watch this film. It came highly recommended to me by Netflix (a hit or miss recommendation at best). Due to my knowing almost nothing about it, the description of the movie, and the pictures used for it I brushed it off. It seemed like a fairly standard slasher flick. Now I don’t mean to be a horror movie snob, I am not. I love a good dumb but fun slasher flick every once in awhile, but they don’t tend to get me excited. Now that I’ve gotten to see this movie, I wish I hadn’t waited so long.
The Invitation feels more like a character piece than a horror film. The main character, Will and his current significant other have been invited to a dinner party held by his ex wife, Eden. He is uncomfortable with the idea of going, and there are slow hints that this is more than just a lack of desire to spend the evening with an ex. As they arrive at the house he begins to have flash backs, and slowly the full story is revealed. Eden and Will had a son who died in an accident, and the two fell apart as a result. Eden becomes suicidal and is sent to get help, where she meets her current husband. Will manages to hold it together more on the outside, but inside he is plagued with guilt and doesn’t actually want to move on, believing it would be betraying his son. Both have become isolated from their friends, and this dinner party is the first time the group has gotten together in two years.
Will’s story is told largely in a series of flashbacks. He slowly moves around the house remembering everything from happy moments, to the actual loss of his son. He does not cope well with being back in the house he once lived in (and where he lost his child). It begins to manifest in anger and paranoia towards Eden and her husband. Will believes that there is some other reason that out of the blue Eden has called them all together.
Eden’s story is slowly revealed during the party. The group she went to is actually part of a cult called “The Invitation”. Through it she has let go of her pain, but it’s clear she is not exactly the woman they all remember. The cult itself is rather unnerving to the group, as are Eden’s new friends that she met while away.
As the movie unfolds it’s rather unclear if Will is actually going mad from his guilt and memories, or if he is right to suspect that Eden is a danger to them. The movie builds a large amount of tension, as no side is presented as being together. For everything that Will finds proving that Eden and her husband are a danger, Will does something that proves that he is unhinged. The group is stuck in the middle trying to help a grieving Will, but stay supportive of their old friend. It makes it all the more challenging as the characters reveal themselves to be good people, and rather loving. It’s a horror movie so you know something is going to happen, but the movie manages to keep you on edge until it does.
It’s a slow pace, suspenseful character driven story that explodes in a rather big climax. I have complained about movies doing this before, as it is very easy to mess up. The Invitation manages to pull it off extremely well. When things finally start to happen it’s fast, dramatic, horrific, and rather depressing. What is going on doesn’t completely come as a surprise, while the movie does try to present you with two paths it’s fairly easy to pick out the one that it will come to. This is not a complaint, the movie does a great job keeping you entertained until that point. It also manages to get one more last shocking moment in right at the end.
Aside from the story and pacing being on point everything else flows together to help. The acting is solid, each character fitting their roles well. The cinematography fits well with the story, with a few interesting shots that help drive the drama. What really got me was the way that sound is used. There is almost no non-diegetic sounds or music used at any point in the film. It becomes rather jarring at various points, and keeps the viewer in the moment. When the movie needs to build tension it uses the characters and their surroundings to do so instead of a tense soundtrack, and it can be highly effective.
This film won’t make you scream, but it will stay with you. It’s haunting, incredibly well done, and suspenseful. It is certainly one of the best modern horror films I have seen, and is worth a watch.