This review is going to give away the entire film. You have been warned.
Released by Drafthouse Films
Release Date: Apr. 8th, 2016
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michiel Huisman
Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
Directed by Karyn Kusama
Not Rated (Language and violence)
The Invitation is one of most disappointing films to come around in a long while. Ever since it played film festivals last year and then its release in theaters this year, I have been hearing nothing but good things about this film. The general consensus was to see the film and know nothing about it before going in.
I went into the film as I had been instructed. I read nothing, I watched none of the trailers. I was ready for this film. I liked the director, Karyn Kusama, who had directed Girlfight and Jennifer’s Body. Even if her films weren’t that great, you could sit there and appreciate the technique. Kind of the same way you watch a lessor Spielberg film. You know that the film is crap, but it is well made crap. Kusama has a good technique for staging her scenes and her camera flows with a purpose.
So what did I think of the film? I hated it. This is one of the worst films of 2016.
The film is a slow burn type film. We are given the characters, spend some time with them, and then we watch as shit happens to them and we are supposed to care. Care, I did not. The characters are so bland that I wanted to jump into the film to see if any of them had a pulse. They do nothing for the a majority of the film and then when things go tits up they run around like a pack of raving idiots. There is one character who, after being shown a video of a person dying, decides to leave. She is the smartest characters in the film and we know nothing about her.
The slow burn aspect is appealing to me. I like when films take their time in setting up everything that we need to know, so that when the shit hits, we know who everyone is and their relation to the other characters. In the film It Follows from last year, we were given everything that we needed to know and we were given characters that we liked. When the shit hit, we were prepared. That film also had a sense of dread that hung over the film. The Invitation tries for this dread, but fails.
The film moves along at a sluggish pace as well. Slow burn films move at a slower pace, hence the “slow” in the term. This film, however, moves at a pace that would put the tortoise in that fable to shame. The film waits over an hour for anything to happen. That is a really long time, especially when there is no one or nothing to care about. Cutting this film down would have been a wise decision as it would have made our torture of watching this film shorter. It might have helped the film as well, but mostly the torture thing.
If you do hear anything about this film, it will probably be about the final shot of the film. I’ll catch you up to speed of the plot of the film:
Will and Eden were once a loving couple. After a tragedy took their son, Eden disappeared. Two years later, out of the blue, she returns with a new husband... and as a different person, eerily changed and eager to reunite with her ex and those she left behind. Over the course of a dinner party in the house that was once his, the haunted Will is gripped by mounting evidence that Eden and her new friends have a mysterious and terrifying agenda. But can we trust Will's hold on reality? Or will he be the unwitting catalyst of the doom he senses?
It turns out that Will was right the entire time because of course he was. If he was wrong there would not have been a film. So Will is right and almost everyone is killed except for Will, his girlfriend, and one of the gay guys. The gay guy goes back into the house to find his husband and Will and his girlfriend notice something. Earlier in the film Will saw Eden’s new husband lighting a hanging lamp in the backyard. Will and his girlfriend walk over to the lamp and then we are given the film shot in the film. It turns out that there are a lot of people living the same film all over the city. We see that there are lamps lit at about a dozen houses, showing us that this isn’t an isolated incident.
The ending is pretty ballsy. Saying that a cult has spread that fast is terrifying. The ending is brilliant, but the film that preceded it doesn’t deserve this ending. This is an ending that belongs in a film of substance, a film that really matters. It does not deserve this film. It was like the writers had the idea for the film and the ending and wrote the entire script based on those two things.
I really, really wanted to like this film. All of the buzz surrounding the film made me believe that I was about to witness something truly special. I didn’t. What I saw was a film that had a good director who made the best film that she could with the shitty script that she was given. The Invitation is a terrible film and one of the worst films of 2016.