The Invitation: Review
The Invitation Synopsis: After her mother’s death, Evie is approached by an unknown cousin who invites her to a lavish wedding in the English countryside. Soon, she realizes a gothic conspiracy is afoot and must fight for survival as she uncovers twisted secrets in her family’s history.
After discovering members of her long-lost family, Evie takes a trip to the posh English countryside for an unexpected reunion. She jockeys between awkward family exchanges and the dashing company of a local lord before stumbling upon a nightmarish family curse in The Invitation.
Entrenching a horror tale in the sudden emotional and cultural clash of unknown family members is a novel idea for director Jessica M. Thompson and screentime Blair Butler. Unfortunately, The Invitation lures viewers into a tedious and scare-free horror offering that falters from its distinct lack of personality.
Audiences will likely feel an oppressive sense of deja vu while sinking into the film’s lifeless energy. Butler’s screenplay shares narrative similarities with other fish-out-of-water stories on class disparity, like Ready or Not or Get Out. Unlike those articulate features, The Invitation rarely engages with its thematic tenants. Butler seems to reckon with the central idea at points, but the film’s follow-through is vacant of any meaningful sentiments.
Instead, the film drags viewers into a predictable narrative web lined with drab characters and stiff dialogue exchanges. The deficiencies become a running joke when the flatlining romance between Evie and the mysterious lord Walter comes into play. For a plot line that ends up eating a significant portion of screen time, their camaraderie remains stilted and overwrought throughout. None of the character dynamics elicit a reason for the audience to feel attached. I give star Nathalie Emmanuel considerable credit for making Evie a personable and dynamic horror final girl through the screenwriting restrictions. However, seeing the upcoming actress straddled in a horror vehicle that lies far beneath her talents is a letdown.
Once the reunion takes a turn for the macabre, The Invitation lags a few steps behind audiences as it stumbles through its execution of a promising-enough third-act twist. Thompson, who follows up her successful indie debuts Light of the Moon, struggles mightily in her transition to horror aesthetics. Every scene muddies itself in a murky blue shadow of shoddy lighting choices – articulating an artless vision that Thompson and Cinematographer Autumn Eakin seem all too content operating within.
There’s no dreary atmosphere or intense build-up of unrelenting tensions to mask the screenwriting woes. When Thompson tries to indulge in the visceral horrors, her dated techniques, including clunky uses of slow-motion and thoughtless framing choices, rarely capture the genre’s haunting allures. Funny enough, The Invitation barely even feels like a horror film for most of its initial 104-minute runtime. The narrative sort of just meanders along before concluding with one of the most rushed and apathetic climaxes in recent memory.
The Invitation is a proposal that not even diehard horror fanatics should consider. If you are desperate for some summer scares, I think most would be better off checking out Fall or the masterful Nope instead.