THE INVITATION Review: A Scary and Unforgettable Exploration of Humanity and Religion

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I had no idea who Karen Kusama was until I watched The Invitation , but afterward, I rushed to my laptop to look up everything she’s made, only to find Jennifer’s Body and Aeon Flux . I don’t remember much from the latter, but I remember not liking the former at all, which made me scratch my head at just how the hell the woman who directed two movies I barely recall anything from made such an important and remarkable piece of work.

I loved nearly everything about The Invitation . There’s no other way to put it. I was about sixty minutes when I realized I wasn’t even sure where it was going, and that’s a tremendous accomplishment in terms of thrillers like this. And while it would be easy to look at the third act of the film and say it’s predictable, it’s a wonderful achievement for the writers that the movie spends so much time weaving things in and out of the story, teasing us at times, trying to convince us that maybe everything isn’t as it seems.

It’s a very spooky movie, but not in the way of a supernatural horror movie that has an eerie atmosphere. Nothing about The Invitation screams horror, at least not for the first seventy minutes or so. It’s a very character-driven script that fleshes out said characters by not just giving them backstory, but comparing them to what seems to be a group of insane people.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I just want to mention that this is perhaps the most devastating movie like this is indeed frightening, but it isn’t horror) that will have the same effect.

But this one did. It hit me. There is a line uttered in the third act (probably around the ninety minute mark) that made me cry, and while I admit to crying in movies quite often, I can’t remember the last time I’ve cried in a thriller of this particular subgenre (I don’t think I have ever cried in a thriller of this particular subgenre). The script has so much to say about what makes us human, and the way that plays out in the third act is brilliant and truly haunting.

Our lead character is Will (played by Logan Marshall-Green, who gives a very, very great performance that I absolutely loved everything about) and his wife Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi, who is also very good, even though her time to shine doesn’t come until the third act). They’re headed to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard, as great as Marshall-Green in every way) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman, from Game of Thrones and The Age of Adaline). Once they arrive, Will realizes that something doesn’t feel right.

The most important thing of all is how it feels. It’s an uneasy film because of its themes, which you don’t fully grasp until the third act. This is a movie about the horrors that can come from religion, yes, but it’s also a movie about humanity. It’s a movie, primarily, about grief and how humans respond to it.

This is very rare example of a film that hits all the right notes. As the third act unfolded, I kept silently telling the screen to not do something wrong. Don’t take a wrong step, because it could deflate the love that I had toward it. And sure enough, every step was the right one, and they all build up to a drastic final shot that is perfect in every sense of the word, sealing the movie off nicely (and very horrifyingly), replacing any preconceived sense of relief with one of dread.

This is an unforgettable thriller that you need to see.

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