Girlfight filmmaker Karyn Kusama has skillfully crafted The Invitation into a creepy, slow burn psychological thriller with a few dramatic turns set in the shadows of the Hollywood Hills. The less specific said about the film's plot aside from its basic premise, the better.
Logan Marshall-Green as stars as Will, a troubled man visiting his ex-wife Eden (played by Tammy Blanchard) with her new boyfriend David (Michiel Huisman) and their friends at a mysterious dinner party after being out of touch for some time. Will and Eden broke up after struggling to grieve over the death of their son. What exactly Eden's motivations for reuniting her friends remains unclear just as her and David's cheery attitudes feel all the more strange as we're slowly given more information and backstory.
The film opens with what's in retrospect a wildly out of place sequence disconnected on the surface with the rest of the film's straightforward action but reveals a few layered themes and loose threads. Will and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) hit and kill a coyote with their car on their way to the party in an ominous foreshadowing of what their arrival and the night has to offer.
The cast of mostly unknowns features many veteran actors recognized from character roles including the likes of Mike Doyle and John Carroll Lynch. We get subtle vibes of cultish behaviour and flashbacks to Will and Eden's life with their son. Ride Along writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi pepper the film's script with smart notes of intrigue and subtle yet sinister undertones as Kusama's direction brings out the eeriness in the slow revealing character moments.
The Invitation offers a strange but refreshing take on a forward-moving single location set thriller wrapped in a The Big Chill style reunion. Kusama's restrained hand centres the film firmly on grief and pain with the surroundings of friendship amidst confrontation. It's a meticulously crafted film that slowly ratchets the tension of drama while constantly threatening violence at every turn.
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