There’s something very unsettling about The Invitation. From its pacing to its characters to its fancy dinner parties and extravagant setting, something just feels off, making it feel less helter-skelter and more controlled insanity. Every interaction is so dubiously awkward that there’s got to be something afoot. It is a horror movie after all.
The Invitation does all it can to invite you to the table and take you out of the comfort of your couch, bed or wherever you may be watching and for the most part, I have to say it succeeds. It accomplishes the feat of interactivity.
We’re left with Will, a man who’s in a disheveled and confused state when he receives an invitation from an ex-wife who he hasn’t seen or spoken to in two years. Will is understandably suspicious but decides to go with his girlfriend, Kira.
He hasn’t seen any of his old friends in 24 months and here they are in his former house. It’s just too perfect for Will’s liking, mostly because he’s a broken person. Will’s fear bridles the audience, giving them the same understanding of the circumstances. Everything is so out-of-place that Will, and hence we, become curious of everything.
Will, played by Logan Marshall-Green, is the film’s magnetic center. Nothing succeeds in this film without him. As an isolated, disturbed character skeptical of everything, he brings a tinge and perception of the story’s events that the audience otherwise would not have. With the point of view of any other character, the things Will notices seem like an overexaggeration, an extrapolation that isn’t there, but Will is a defensive person, for reasons that are later revealed in the script, allowing for the detective-like focus this movie prides itself on. Director Karyn Kusama’s narrative focus frames the evening’s events in a magnifying glass. There doesn’t seem to be a need for one but after a little time, you’re glad you have that magnifying glass around.
Consumed by paranoia and uneasiness, we’re in for a slow drag thriller from the beginning, The Invitation‘s pride and joy. It boasts its writing and exudes confidence in its seemingly unwavering tact for the imaginative. It is a thin line, the line between delusion and confusion. If you’re confused, you still have control of your sensibilities. If you’re deluded, you’re convinced there’s something there when all the other signs point to the opposite. By the middle of the film, Will and ourselves are completely deluded. We have become obsessed. There is something wrong here. We won’t accept otherwise. We, ourselves, have become deranged.
This is an impressive feat. Few films can imprint a schizophrenic mindset and this film gets very close to doing so. It is a testament to the film’s writing and the weaving of Kusama’s baton behind the camera.
It devastates me to even write it. The Invitation may be too good for its own good because the final third can’t hold the narrative weight and talent that has been demonstrated thus far, collapsing under the task that it is now expected to complete. Up to this point, The Invitation has said, “Yeah, we’re that guy” like a trash-talking pool swindler. He has performed up to the goals he has set himself. That also means that he feels he has to outdo himself with each shot, climbing the metaphorical ladder towards absolute perfection. The rungs get farther and farther apart the more he climbs, so much so that he has to start jumping to reach them. The third act has arrived, the final bar meters away but it outstretches his reach and he falls down the side of the cliff.
The payoff, after all this build, is not remotely close to enough. This film, to this point, has been borderline hypnotic. There’s not much plot-wise going on but you don’t dare take your eyes off it. It is magnetic, attracting all sorts of psychological tortures to it. It is as if someone shut off that magnet.
The tension slowly erodes and when the payoff comes (far too late, by the way), it has lost a lot of its grip.
This film could have been great, 80’s material. The payoff really hurts the memory of the film after you watch it though and that can’t be ignored.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has Fallen, The Cable Guy, The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Underworld, The Do-Over, X-Men: Apocalypse, D-Tox/Eye See You, Constantine)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Underworld: Evolution, Batman & Robin, Bloodsport, War, The Ridiculous 6)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Independence Day: Resurgence, The Crow: City of Angels, Centurion, Planet of the Apes, Stonados)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, The Forbidden Dimensions, Cyborg, Outcast, Sabotage)
My score for The Invitation: 71.
Logan Marshall-Green is a capable actor and Kusama clearly a deft hand at directing and yet with all that The Invitation offers, it wipes out in the clutch. It throws a lot of punches but disappears when those punches would have mattered the most. Still certainly worth a viewing and I’m more than likely to visit it again.