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'The Invitation' is an unnerving and believable thriller

October 19, 2016

“The Invitation” is a psychological drama/thriller released to limited theaters in April 2016. Prior to this release, the film made its rounds at film festivals around the globe beginning the previous year. This micro budget movie was directed by Karyn Kusama who has previously directed "Aeon Flux" (2005) and "Jennifer’s Body" (2009).

Plot-wise this movie starts out very simple with our main character Will, accompanied by his girlfriend Kira, on his way to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife Eden and her current husband David. The dinner party is also host to a number of other close friends of both Will and Eden, all of whom have not seen each other for over two years. The reasoning behind such a long hiatus, Will and Eden’s divorce, and finally the purpose of the dinner party is slowly revealed over time.

What is done beautifully in this film is the way the story builds itself. We start out with such a simple premise in a lavish home located in the hills of Los Angeles. However, from the moment Will and Kira enter the home, it is absolutely apparent that something is just, well, off. It doesn't take very long for the audience to start to see what is going on, and this makes the 100 minute run time very dense. There isn’t a single scene that doesn't lend to the situation slowly enveloping these characters, yet there isn’t anything that is overtly over-the-top that takes you out of it. Instead the movie slowly churns out situational cues that sink you deeper and deeper into many of the character’s psyches and, at times, makes you second guess some character’s motivations.

The acting done by the entire cast is wholly convincing and their performances are what sell the screenplay. The combination of superb acting and quality writing pulls you directly into the characters' minds and has you feeling both sympathy and caution towards certain individuals. The writing for all of the characters also grounds the film in a believable reality, making everyone’s actions and decisions feel genuine, especially in regards to our main character Will. It is through this main character’s perspective that we see the entire film play out, meaning everything he sees, we see, and more importantly, everything he doesn’t see, we don’t get to see either.

Really the only downside to this film is the very end. Literally the very last shot seemed like it was tacked on in order to elude to something much bigger than the story we got, which is unnecessary because the plot works perfectly as a confined story between a small group of friends. Aside from that and a few minor audio bugs this really is a movie ripe with suspense and shock.

“The Invitation” is a perfectly executed thriller that plays with the way we interpret people’s actions and beliefs. Its strong acting and grounded writing make this one a must watch. The slow and steady build of the plot creates a satisfying but unnerving experience that will have you at attention the entire time. It is strongly recommended that you go into this film with the least amount of information possible. Avoid promotional trailers and let the movie speak for itself. And yes, it is currently streaming on Netflix.