Warning: *Spoiler Alert*
‘The Invitation’ holds good for most part thanks to some great performances, crafty direction by Karyn Kusama (Aeonflux, Jennifer’s Body, Girlfight) and effective screenplay & dialogues by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (who have co-written strictly mediocre films such as The Tuxedo, Clash of the Titans and RIPD).
Logan Marshall Green is terrific as Will, and he sort-of exudes that Tom Hardy-esque persona at times. The rest of the cast pitch in with above-par performances as well.
It begins like this. Will and his new girlfriend Kira get invited to his old house where his ex-wife Eden and her new husband David are holding a re-union dinner party for their friends. It is implied that Will and Eden lost their son Ty and they divorced soon after. Apparently, Eden met David at a grief support camp. So, the stage is set for an evening of wine and merry-making by the couple who have been off the grid for nearly two years.
Will spends a good portion of the evening keeping to himself and recollecting some of the events that took place in his life. Some of those sad memories such as Eden trying to attempt suicide keep bouncing off his head. We are told that one of the characters (Choi) is yet to make it to the party. As the night progresses, Eden and David tell the group about how they have recovered from grief, and found positivity by being part of the cult in Mexico. Things start looking increasingly interesting and the tensive build-up is executed amazingly well. The dialogues appear on-point and hit the mark pretty good.
We do get the feeling that something is amiss with the newly-reformed Eden, David and his friend Pruitt. The semi-nude entry of Sadie itself seals the deal with respect to this fact. But everything kinda goes well for a good part of the evening where Will seemingly tries to reconnect with all that has passed. The thrills are deftly placed, and the performances almost perfectly complement the writing and direction. When Will receives a message from Choi stating he had already reached before everyone else but seems M.I.A, the suspicion starts to reach saturation point. The viewer is ready to embrace “break-point”. Hey, we are at the 75 minute mark here. So that’s enough hype. Time for some gory action.
The “break-point” however arrives a little later than expected, but at a very crucial juncture. I expected a ‘Youre Next’ sortof 20 minutes to follow, but the pacing never elevates. This is where one feels the writing could have been improved. It lacks those edge-of-the-seat moments that we look for, in thrillers such as these. Slowly yet steadily, we come to the finale which is rather unsurprising too. Fatalities involve good guys and bad guys. The closing shot (that of the burning lanterns) was a redeemer of sorts though.
Kusama and her writers needed to put in a little more elucidation as to why the couple and Pruitt waited for so long to commence ‘Operation: Murder’, given the fact that most of the executions were simply by way of gunshots or straight-forward knife stabs in the end. Ostensibly, it was all part of a cult ritual but COME ON! Why isn’t the viewer educated about this? They could have used that Will-Sadie scene by the pool to give clearer hints. Okay, maybe the climax and pre-climax portions do possess a realistic touch compared to other home-invasion thrillers and succeed, to an extent, in maintaining a decent level of ambiguity; nevertheless it brought to a standstill all that bustling excitement which the makers took so long to construct. Them mind-games never really paid off.
But hey, hats off to Kusama and crew for concocting an intense and taut psychological thriller that raised the bar in terms of build-up. If only the final bits were charted out better..SIGH!
Watch the trailer here: