Drenched in never-ending dread, told with striking composure & cleverly playing with the viewers’ expectations by neither giving in to their predictions nor discarding it entirely, The Invitation is an expertly crafted, steadily paced & solidly performed thriller that smartly encapsulates its premise with an ominous ambience from the very beginning and effectively sustains it for the remainder of its runtime.
The Invitation tells the story of Will who, along with his girlfriend, is heading to a dinner party at his former house which is being hosted by his ex-wife & her new husband. Still haunted by the tragedy that befell the former couple a few years ago, Will finds himself detached from the rest of the guys and over the course of the evening, begins suspecting that their hosts may have sinister plans in store for everyone.
Directed by Karyn Kusama, The Invitation opens with a brief sequence that serves as a warning of more disturbing stuff to come and is splendidly directed. The atmosphere is dark & foreboding, its menacing tone is consistently maintained, and there is always an apprehension that things may go south at any given moment. While majority of characters aren’t that interesting, the two leads do exhibit little depth in their arcs.
The technical aspects work in tandem to make its predictable premise as effective as possible, for it is aware that viewers may figure out beforehand how things are going to end and then, it makes them wait for the inevitable. And it is this apprehensive element that brings & uplifts its tension to an unbearable level for just when we think that things are about to fall apart, the film takes a sharp turn to make us wait a little more.
The slow, steady & fluid movements of camera, in addition to its warm colour palette & low-lighting permeate each frame with incessant bleakness, and the dark, gloomy vibe never leaves the setting at any given moment. Editing is patiently carried out for the most part although the film still feels a tad longer due to its unhurried pace. And then there is this muted presence of Theodore Shapiro’s murky score that adds further chills to the experience.
Coming to the acting department, the cast comprises of Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, John Carrol Lynch & others who play their roles convincingly. It’s easy to mistake Marshall-Green for Tom Hardy & then get impressed by the latter’s improved work on his American accent but the lookalike does a solid job with what he’s given and delivers an emotionally resonant performance while the rest of the supporting cast play their part accordingly.
On an overall scale, The Invitation is an intelligently executed slow-burner that tackles the themes of grief, depression & distrust in a nuanced manner, and is at its best when it toys with the audience’s expectations & familiarity with the genre. But its eventual decision to give in to the ending most of us predicted way earlier instead of taking an unconventional route is where it misses out on the opportunity to set itself apart the crowd. Cleverly stimulating the senses & wrapping itself up with a spine-chilling final shot, The Invitation is definitely worth a shot.