‘Invitation’ to thrill
By DANIEL RUSSELL
After debuting at the SXSW Film Festival last year, Karyn Kusama’s latest thriller film “The Invitation” made its theatrical and video on-demand debut this April.
The story is fairly simple: a man named Will (Logan Marshall-Green) receives an invitation to a dinner party at his old house from his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) two years after a traumatic incident separated them. Reluctant to attend with his current partner (Emayatzy Corinealdi) and see his old friends as well, Will suspects that the party isn’t what it appears to be, and suspects something sinister is in the works.
It’s not hard to see that Will is a troubled man. In numerous flashbacks, we see him as a clean-shaven, happy family man with Eden. Two years later, he’s a long-haired, bearded man, and you can feel the trauma he’s been through with every word and action he performs. Actor Logan Marshall-Green does a fantastic job of showing Will wrestle his personal demons in this hostile environment that was once his home, while Eden has come to terms with what happened between them. The film deals with some very emotional issues involving how grief after trauma affects the human psyche, and the appropriate ways to relieve this grief.
This movie isn’t for everyone. The film has a slow burn style, where tense conversations and awkward silences make up a good portion of the 100-minute runtime. It takes a while to find out what’s really going on here at the dinner, but the buildup and suspense that precedes the reveal is razor-sharp, keeping the audience at the edge of its seat. The movie is also set almost entirely in one location, adding a claustrophobic feeling that becomes crucial in the final third of the film.
The film takes a “less is more” approach, which may not appeal to some filmgoers. Not knowing enough helps to sustain the tense atmosphere, and keeps the audience wanting to know more as they move along. For the most part, the film gives you enough information about certain events to make an assumption about them. For example, the exact circumstances surrounding the traumatic incident that separated Will and Eden is never explicitly stated, but is shown in brief glimpses through flashbacks. It gives you enough to realize what has happened, and how it affected their marriage, in only a few simple shots.
Marshall-Green is given the showiest performance, while most of the other performances given by the cast, specifically Will’s old friends, feel real. We can tell through Will’s interactions with them that they all used to be very close to him, but since the incident there’s been a long period of separation – so much so that we sometimes get the sense that Will isn’t surrounded by his friends, he’s surrounded by people he used to know. John Carroll Lynch and Lindsay Burdge steal their scenes as two mysterious people at the party whom Eden and her new husband David (Michael Huisman) met while on a trip to Mexico, and their presence at the party makes the audience think about why exactly they’re there.
“The Invitation” is easily one of the best thriller films to come out in the past few years. Rather than focusing on ways to scare you, the film is focused on making you think about the ways humans deal with trauma, taking place in a dinner gone south. And it all leads up to one horrifying final shot. Give this film a viewing – it’ll be well worth your time.