Friday, December 30, 2016

The Invitation

   The Invitation sounded interesting when I read the synopsis on Netflix, but I passed it by without even adding it to my instant queue. But, now that it's the end of the year, there's all these 'best of 2016' lists popping up. Imagine my surprise when I found The Invitation on a few of those. Starring Logan Marshall Green (Prometheus) and virtually nobody else I'm familiar with* (which is quite a feat), The Invitation is pretty hard to classify. It's an understated and creepy movie, but calling it a horror movie has the potential to betray it's own story, not unlike calling They Look Like People a Sci-Fi movie. Go figure.

   Don't get me wrong, The Invitation is full of horror/thriller elements, and I'm not telling you either way whether it is truly a horror movie or not, because that's part of the fun- finding out for yourself. I would like to say it's a slow burn movie, but that implies that it takes its time to get to the exciting or interesting part. Neither is really true. This is movie about details and character drama. The climax of the movie is only the destination, and like they, what matters is the journey. Will and his girlfriend Kira are invited to a dinner party by some old friends, but there's some dark history there, and Will begins to suspect that not everything is as it seems.

   In a conventional horror, drama, or thriller, the movie would tip it's hand thematically by the second act. Is the tragedy in Will's past influencing his outlook on the dinner party? Seeing all these old friends again for the first time in so long is dredging up a lot of memories. Or... is something genuinely weird going on? The movie does an excellent job of convincing you both ways. Even when you're absolutely sure of one outcome, the movie pulls the rug out from under you and says "but wait..." In that sense, it's key to go into the movie relatively blind. It's also important to keep in mind that The Invitation is basically a character drama with thriller overtones, and not the other way around.

   I can imagine a lot of people getting bored with this movie because they expected something different. I've seen many comments on different sites from people who say they were bored to tears with the movie, and just as many saying it was absolutely brilliant. It's not a 'twist' movie, so much as it is an exercise in thematic inevitability. It would make a good double feature with They Look Like People or Coherence. It bears lots of thematic similarities to the former, and almost an entire setting with the latter. If low budget, indie cinema has taught me anything... dinner parties are frickin' crazy, man. The movie is full of excellent performances, and an undeniable tension throughout.

   I fully recommend The Invitation so long as you're going in with an open mind, and lots of patience. The movie is pretty amazing in my opinion, but you've really got to get engrossed in it. However, I think genre fans will already have the outcome they want in mind, so the movie might not click for them. Some people want a twist, they want to be proven wrong, or surprised, and depending on which way you're swayed, you might not like the ending. I personally loved it, and the last few seconds of the movie were great. An excellent payoff. But, really, I fear I've said too much already- so just go see it.

*I take it back, I also totally recognized John Carroll Lynch!

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