Who Invited Them
by Hope Madden
Perhaps the most terrifying horror born of neighborly manners is Michael Haneke’s unnerving Funny Games (either his 1997 German-language original or his 2007 English-language remake). Writer/director Duncan Birmingham doesn’t go that far. What he does is walk a tightrope that’s a little goofier, a little less horrifying, but effective nonetheless.
Margo (Melissa Tang) and Adam (Ryan Hansen) throw a housewarming party. Well, Adam throws it. Margo endures it. She doesn’t honestly know what was wrong with their old neighborhood. It doesn’t help that their 5-year-old has had nightmares every night since they arrived.
Adam invites all his colleagues and bosses, hoping to impress without coming off as douchey. He’s upwardly mobile, although the house —which he got at a steal because of that nasty double homicide—might make them look a little higher up than they really are.
Not that Margo and Adam are the only partiers who aren’t what they seem. That really good-looking couple—the two who look like they just came from a really hip funeral—does anyone know who they are?
Maybe Sasha (Perry Mattfeld) and Tom (Timothy Granaderos) are the neighbors, as they say.
But probably not.
What we can say for sure is that they do not want to leave.
What transpires after all the other guests have gone would be a comedy of manners except that it feels pretty clear that something awful lurks underneath the handsome couple’s evasion and gaslighting.
Birmingham’s film is a mystery of sorts, although you’ll have most of that intrigue figured out pretty early. There is also a subplot about Margo’s friends who are babysitting. This goes essentially nowhere. Worse still, Birmingham rushes Act 3 and leaves you feeling short-changed.
However, that 30 minutes or so that Margo and Adam and Sasha and Tom have on their own gets pretty uncomfortable.
Hansen unveils surprising warmth within the needy, insecure Adam. He and Tang take the married couple in surprising and welcome directions. Mattfeld and Granaderos are drolly perfect as the home invaders masquerading as partygoers who just can’t tell it’s time to go.
A tight script wastes little time and manages to surprise even if you figure out the main mysteries early. Who Invited Them isn’t flawless, but it is an anxious bit of fun.