IF YOU HAVE ever received an invitation that caused you some degree of dread, you’ll empathize with Will (Logan Marshall-Greene) as he approaches a dinner party thrown by his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard), with trepidation. She’s re-married now, and though her new husband, David (Michiel Huisman), seems like a decent guy, the tragic event that ruined Will and Eden’s marriage—sending them in two dramatically different directions—still haunts them both.
That’s the set-up for The Invitation (2016), an intimate psychological drama that slowly, and subtly, becomes a horror movie in the careful hands of director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight; Jennifer’s Body). What starts out as a reunion of old friends and lovers steadily disintegrates as some of Eden and David’s new friend’s arrive and the couple announces that they’ve actually gathered everyone in order to share their discovery of a life-changing new philosophy.
Or, what we immediately recognize as a cult.
It would be wrong to give away too much of what transpires over the course of the evening. Better that you discover it as Will does, by watching the periphery, gathering one weird detail at a time. From the moment he arrives things seem a bit off. One of Eden’s new friends is inappropriately flirtatious to the point of desperation, as though she’s racing the clock; another strange guest, played by the always great John Carroll Lynch, introduces himself to the group with a shocking confession; there’s a creepy video presentation; someone hangs a red lantern on a tree in the backyard; and a few of the guests seem to be in on a big secret.
Yeah, it’s that kind of party, and you’ll be glad you came.
The entire movie is set in Eden and David’s home, and if The Invitation proves anything, it’s just how much mileage a filmmaker can get out of a single location when it’s peopled with a great cast enacting a solid script. There’s so much going on here to observe and to ponder, and such an intimate mood of foreboding that you will feel your own fight-or-flight instinct kicking in.
And just when you think you’ve got it all under control, a surprise ending sends your imagination reeling.
By all means, accept The Invitation. If your idea of horror is other people, you’ll be glad you did.
Here’s the trailer.