DRAFTHOUSE FILMS (2016)

Director: Karyn Kusama

Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lindsay Burdge, Mike Doyle, Jay Larson, John Carroll Lynch, Jordi Vilasuso, Marieh Delfino, Michelle Krusiec

A throwback to horrors of old, The Invitation is an isolated movie – set only in a large, contemporary house in the hills – that relies on a slow burning narrative to chug the story along. As the film is 1 hours 40 mins long, it ends up being a long, slow burn as well.

 

The location is great for a horror movie / thriller movie – not out in the forest again, or in a rundown house – this is set in an extravagant, contemporary mansion in the Hollywood Hills (full of big glass windows and glass walls) – surely not the place for shady happenings? The house is like a maze at times with various rooms to navigate and doors aplenty and throughout it is lit in lowlight, with dim lighting in every room, creating a supposedly calm ambience, but also an on-edge atmosphere.

Having received a random invite to a party thrown by his ex-wife Eden (Blanchard), Will (Marshall-Green) and his new girlfriend Kira (Corinealdi) head to the house to find old friends and strangers have converged on the mansion. The party, however, is no ordinary party as things take a…disturbing cult turn.

 

Production-wise, the film looks great. The house is utilised perfectly, and the camerawork is just so every scene is caught perfectly. The lighting throughout lends itself to creating the moody atmosphere required, and every scene is composed nicely – the scene by the swimming pool in silhouette is shot just right. The music employed is also a success, as it is not too grandiose to be OTT or swathed in apathy, it captures the feelings of the moments very well. No complaints there at all, it kept my eyes and ears entertained.

 

The acting throughout was on point, no real let downs here – except for Michelle Krusiec as Gina, her character just didn’t click with me at all, maybe in the hands of a different actress it could have come across better, but as it is, it didn’t work. Logan Marshall-Green scowled the property like a Revenant style Tom Hardy stand in, and gave a good, solemn performance of a man desperately trying to ascertain real life from fantasy. Blanchett and Huisman gave just the right amount of strangeness to their roles, showing enough restraint to not be hammy. When John Carroll Lynch turned up, however, it almost became a spoiler in itself such is the history of his roles and performances.

 

Where the movie fell down for me was in the execution of the story – you could see what was coming from a mile away. Where the slow build-up of 90 minutes should’ve had been intriguing and compelling, once all of the unsubtle clues were spelled out, I wasn’t interested in the build-up and was simply waiting for the pay off – not because I need my fill of a big twist or bang, but when it’s so clearly telegraphed it’s distracting - the wine is constantly referenced throughout (and is even featured on the promotional posters) which already highlighted its importance early on. The heavily guarded house, and David locking the doors at every possible chance. The desire to keep all the guests together as Claire tries to leave, plus Pruitt following and not letting her be alone as Will is being pulled away from watching. Sadie started off looking crazy, and carried on that way. Pruitt being Pruitt. The cult-like video shown on the laptop. Eden’s cult-like gown. Will seeing the pills being hidden and the red light being ignited in the garden – Will managed to be hidden in position just when the story required.

 

Surely, after seeing a cult video which shows an ill lady having her life “sucked” away for her benefit, as everyone watches her die, would be enough for most people to think “sod this, I’m out”, and if that wasn’t enough, everyone still stuck around after Pruitt admitted being an ex-con who brutally murdered his ex-wife – Claire was the only one with half a brain to get out of dodge. I know I’d be right out after the awkward cuddles to begin with and seeing Gina.

 

The son was used more as a McGuffin as it turned out. The movie centred on Will’s emotional and mental struggles to deal with the death of his son, as he struggles to hold himself together throughout. As it turns out, this pretty much got ignored for the film’s final act where the film bursts into life – bar on line towards the end. It seemed odd to set this up as a key driving point only to discard it at the conclusion. The ending itself seemed to serve no real purpose as to what had happened in the movie, it was just kind of…there.

 

The opening of the film mirrored the cult’s belief in cleansing beings of their misery, and served as a direct tie in. The animal was put out of its misery, which is a similar way of thinking for the cult. A scene later involving Sadie on a couch tied in, as well as Kira and Pruitt. It was good to see there being a reason behind the otherwise ambiguous opening scene.

 

The Invitation set itself up to lead the viewer into believing that Will was in fact so far gone that everything was all in his head, which may be a reason for the overly telegraphed plot points, however it was clear that this wasn’t the case because of that reason. Had the movie followed that path, or twisted the antagonists around, then this movie would have been more satisfying. As it stands, it’s a good movie in terms of everything except delivery.

 

I think if I received The Invitation, it would stay in my drawer as an appreciated gesture, and let the other invitees drink it in.

November 1st 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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