by Hope Madden
Dinner parties are the worst.
This is especially true when said party is thrown by your ex and her new man in the house that used to be yours. So, why go?
Curiosity – which is what will or will not keep you invested in director Karyn Kusama’s new film The Invitation.
Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his new girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) tough it out. They drive out to the LA hills to join Will’s ex Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and all the friends Will has forgotten about since his son accidentally died in this very house a couple years back.
The party marks Eden’s return to the fold and an introduction to the new man in her life, David (Michiel Huisman), another grief survivor who, like Eden, owes his very sanity to the life-changing vision of Dr. Joseph.
Oh, God. Have they unwittingly submitted themselves to the one thing worse than a time-share opportunity gathering – a religious conversion attempt?
Kusama’s slow build mines societal tensions well. Besides the obvious ex-lover friction and the fear of cult propaganda, many in this once tight circle of friends have avoided the grief-stricken parents since the accident. It’s all very uncomfortable, though the film slowly turns the discomfort toward paranoia as Will begins to wonder where missing buddy Choi (Karl Yune) may be, why Eden has a bottle of barbiturates in her bedroom, and why David keeps all the partygoers locked inside.
Is something amiss, or is Will just dealing with those damaging issues of grief that Eden and David were able to overcome thanks to Dr. Joseph?
As The Invitation slowly evolves from tense drama to thriller to horror, Kusama is always throwing uncomfortable moments and unsettling clues at you. Were it not for the often tediously stilted dialog penned by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi – whose track record includes the Ride Along series, if that tells you anything – The Invitation would have a consistently nightmarish, hypnotic quality that keeps you uncomfortably captive.
You know, just like that last dinner party you went to.