Movie Review: The Invitation (2016)
Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michiel Huisman, Tammy Blanchard, Michelle Krusiec, Mike Doyle, Jay Larson, Jordi Vilasuso, Marieh Delfino, with Lindsay Burdge, and John Carroll Lynch as Pruitt
Writers: Phil Hay (screenplay), Matt Manfredi (screenplay)
Rating: 4.6/5 stars
“The Invitation” makes brilliant use of its tense premise to deliver a highly effective and unexpectedly smart slow-burning thriller. The plot is quite simple really, but it’s narrated with such a wicked eye and shrewd hand by Director Karyn Kusama that the tension seems all too real and always simmering just beneath the surface, waiting to burst out at any moment, eventually culminating to a jaw-dropping, sinister climax that’s wholly rewarding after approximately 90 minutes of buildup.
When Will shows up to his ex-wife, Eden, and her new husband, David’s, dinner party, he begins to suspect their intentions and even goes to the extent of thinking that the couple have something ominous planned for their guests. In the house that was once his, the haunted Will becomes more and more convinced, with the signs surrounding him, that Eden, her new husband, and her new friends have a mysterious and terrifying agenda for Will and her old friends. But, with Will still coping from the tragic loss of his son – and Eden having moved on – his grip on reality and the validity of his doubts come into question. As the evening moves on, things only get murkier for the guests at the house as well as those seated in the theater.
If the movie works as well as it does, it’s because Kusama adeptly elicits suspense through shadows, silences, and ricocheting looks, and, almost nonchalantly, makes us question Will’s and our own suspicions, only to pull the rug from beneath our feat when we least expect it. She ratchets up the tension masterfully, building to a finale that’s as chilling as it’s brilliant, helped in no small way by a effective cast that’s wholly committed to her vision.
However, along with being a little gem of a thriller, “The Invitation” also draws some of its mysterious aura from the emotional undercurrent of grief that acts as a major subplot as the suspense unfolds. Besides tantalizing us with wickedly clever plot devices, the movie also takes a fractured look into people desperate to change even if that means becoming different people all together. With this instant winner of an indie flick, Ms. Kusama has more than earned her place at Hollywood’s elite table, and not inviting her to dinner would certainly make the affair less appetizing.