The Invitation Review: Social Horror That Will Test You

Photo Credit:The best episode of the US version of The Office is one where several of the main characters are invited to dinner at their boss' home. Tension builds as they play awkward games, dinner cooks too slowly, and the boss' psychotic girlfriend tries to get her guests to invest in her candle company. Using awkward humor, as was the nature of the series, the episode feels like the funniest thriller you've ever seen. It's relentless, expertly paced, and forces you to look away at mere glances across the room. Director Karyn Kusama employs many of the same tactics here just as well, except for an actual thriller. Extending the premise from 22 minutes to an hour and 40, The Invitation is a masterclass in tension-building, one that refuses to give us anything until it absolutely has to. The setup is simple enough: Will (Logan Marshall-Green) is returning to the home he once shared with his wife Eden (Tammy Blacnhard), in which she still lives, for a reunion dinner party with all their old friends. Their marriage ended in tragedy with the loss of their son, but Will and Eden grieved separately, and are now facing each other for the first time, complete with new significant others. But upon arrival, something seems off. Eden's movements are almost too warm, and her new husband (Michiel Huisman) invited some strange guests who were never part of the initial friend groups. From there, The Invitation gets by with its general feeling of uneasyness, which is consistently refueled by awkward comments, long pauses, and the occasional locked door. The script struggles a bit when splitting the cast between those who are aware something is wrong and those completely blind to it. At times, the film has you yelling at the screen to the latter half in frustration, testing the overall believability of it all. Will is a fairly thin character, and his relentless brooding goes on a bit too long in spots before the creepier characters get to interject something socially off-putting. But still, Kusama builds tension like a true master, every bit as strong as Dan Trachtenberg did in last month's 10 Cloverfield Lane but with half the pizzaz. It sort of plays like a more focused version of last year's strong The Gift. What this film lacks in character and narrative value it mostly makes up for in its unique way of letting fear crop up in really unlikely circumstances. Frankly, the audience The Invitation will make the most squeamish are the same people who couldn't handle the social awkwardness of The Office or other works like it. That puts it at a unique place in the thriller genre, one I definitely hope more, hopefully by Kusama again, revisit and perfect. Grade: B+ By Matt Dougherty

The best episode of the US version of The Office is one where several of the main characters are invited to dinner at their boss’ home. Tension builds as they play awkward games, dinner cooks too slowly, and the boss’ psychotic girlfriend tries to get her guests to invest in her candle company. Using awkward humor, as was the nature of the series, the episode feels like the funniest thriller you’ve ever seen. It’s relentless, expertly paced, and forces you to look away at mere glances across the room. Director Karyn Kusama employs many of the same tactics here just as well, except for an actual thriller. Extending the premise from 22 minutes to an hour and 40, The Invitation is a masterclass in tension-building, one that refuses to give us anything until it absolutely has to.

The setup is simple enough: Will (Logan Marshall-Green) is returning to the home he once shared with his wife Eden (Tammy Blacnhard), in which she still lives, for a reunion dinner party with all their old friends. Their marriage ended in tragedy with the loss of their son, but Will and Eden grieved separately, and are now facing each other for the first time, complete with new significant others. But upon arrival, something seems off. Eden’s movements are almost too warm, and her new husband (Michiel Huisman) invited some strange guests who were never part of the initial friend groups.

From there, The Invitation gets by with its general feeling of uneasyness, which is consistently refueled by awkward comments, long pauses, and the occasional locked door. The script struggles a bit when splitting the cast between those who are aware something is wrong and those completely blind to it. At times, the film has you yelling at the screen to the latter half in frustration, testing the overall believability of it all. Will is a fairly thin character, and his relentless brooding goes on a bit too long in spots before the creepier characters get to interject something socially off-putting.

But still, Kusama builds tension like a true master, every bit as strong as Dan Trachtenberg did in last month’s 10 Cloverfield Lane but with half the pizzaz. It sort of plays like a more focused version of last year’s strong The Gift. What this film lacks in character and narrative value it mostly makes up for in its unique way of letting fear crop up in really unlikely circumstances. Frankly, the audience The Invitation will make the most squeamish are the same people who couldn’t handle the social awkwardness of The Office or other works like it. That puts it at a unique place in the thriller genre, one I definitely hope more, hopefully by Kusama again, revisit and perfect. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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