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Movie Review: The Invitation
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The Invitation
Director: Karyn Kusama
Screenwriters: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lindsay Burdge, John Carroll Lynch
Distributor: Drafthouse Films
Not Rated | 99 Minutes
Release Date: April 8, 2016

“Each and every one of us is on a journey, and we feel that it’s important to be on that journey with the people you love.”

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) has reluctantly accepted an invitation to attend a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard). Along with his girlfriend, Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), Will arrives at his former house in the Hollywood Hills, the site of both the evening’s gathering and a tragedy responsible for the dissolution of his marriage.

After disappearing for two years, Eden has returned with her new husband, David (Michiel Huisman), who she met on retreat in Mexico while recovering from a nervous breakdown. Together they have an evening planned that Will and the other guests will never forget.

Directed by Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Jennifer’s Body), The Invitation is a psychological thriller about the realities of loss and the consequences of denial. From the first frame, the film builds on an increasing sense of dread and paranoia until you’re unsure what threats are real or imagined.

As the screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi unfolds, we learn that Will is still grieving the loss of his son, who died two years ago. Eden, on the other hand, has seemingly found catharsis. With the help of some new friends, she is learning how to free herself from the pain and sorrow that now defines Will’s existence. Unsure of Eden’s behavior, Will begins to suspect that his hosts have a terrifying agenda.

Kusama’s suspense-drama is about people whose lives are in crisis. It’s a film about pain, both physical and emotional, and how we as a society attempt to dull it at all costs. The Invitation speaks to the value of pain and the necessity of feeling it. In dulling it, we blunt our ability to fully appreciate life. Will’s grief weighs heavy, but it also brings his reality into sharper focus. Eden, however, is in denial, searching for a cure to her pain in the form of New Age spirituality.

Drawing inspiration from films like Rosemary’s Baby and Klute, The Invitation is an exercise in delusion and dread. What most impresses me about Kusama’s film is how complicated the characters are. These are people you know – damaged, vulnerable, destructive, and sympathetic. Humans can be driven to do horrific things in the name of faith, and The Invitation explores the dangers of dulling pain with dogma.

With an arresting score by Theodore Shapiro and cinematographer Bobby Shore‘s claustrophobic visuals, The Invitation is an effective thriller that ratchets up the tension to a nightmarish crescendo. The cast Kusama has assembled is impressive, but it’s Logan Marshall-Green who stands out with a memorable performance as the broken Will. To say anything else about The Invitation would be spoiling all the fun, but it’s without question one of the finest horror-thrillers of 2016. It’s sharp, intense, and scary as hell.

The Invitation opens today in select theaters and VOD. For Charlotte, NC, residents, Kusama’s film will be screening as part of Back Alley Film Series’ April programming. For tickets for that, visit the official BAFS website.

Trailer

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