Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Michiel Huisman, Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard
Spoilers Within: Yes
Originally posted 8th April 2016 on Letterboxd.
Horror – more so than most genres – relies heavily on the strength of the performances; if the acting is not convincing, or if it’s stilted or unbelievable, then the terror of the situation, no matter how fantastical or grounded, will simply fall apart. Sadly, for all the brief flashes of intrigue in the drowsily-paced mystery, The Invitation buckles when pushed to focus on the paper-thin characters portrayed by bland, one-note performers.
The pre-credits scene is intriguing at first: the coldness of Will (Logan Marshall-Green)’s mercy slaying of accidental road-kill showing an immediate depth to his character, but that soon unravels when you realise this moment was a weak foreword stating that he had the capacity to kill animal and human alike. It cheapens one of the very few moments of depth displayed in the entire cast, and in the end, amounts to very little.
Aside from a few circumstances where Will’s emotions are on full display, and the majority of the menacing Pruitt (John Carrol-Lynch in another naturally ominous role), the main cast are clichéd, questionable, and incompetent; sometimes all at once. It’s because of these stiffly realised characters that the tautness of the mystery feels like a late-night Hallmark Channel melodrama, albeit more skillfully directed and brutal.
The directing itself is actually a little bit more interesting than it initially seemed. Despite being contained within the boundaries of an upscale residence, there was a fluidity to the film that was satisfying to watch. Due to Will’s presence, each character had their moment to a private conversation, coming and going with the ebb and flow of their questioning, all whilst the main body of the dinner party continued in an adjacent room. This water-like movement of the cast gave the house its own personality that was surely more interesting to watch than 75% of the individuals on screen.
As for the ending (and the preceding, conventionally gore-filled build-up): I can’t decide whether I found it mediocre, or a glinting coda in a film that’s as dingy and flat as interiors of the Eden/Dave household.