Written by Michael Clawson
The characters of Karyn Kusama’s “The Invitation” are stunningly resilient in uncomfortable situations, which the film has plenty of. It’s the story of a man named Will and his girlfriend Kira attending a dinner party hosted at Will’s former home by his ex-wife, Eden, and her new husband, David. Ostensibly, Will, Kira, and friends have been brought together because it’s been years since the tragedy that led to Will and Eden’s divorce and the fracturing of their friendships. Eden and David have seemingly overcome their grief and want to re-unite their social circle. While other guests are distracted with the expensive wine that’s being served, Will is attuned to Eden and David’s odd behavior and is uneasy about their creepy new friends, Pruitt and Sadie. Before long, he begins to suspect they have a hidden agenda and that the evening’s festivities may devolve into something dangerous.
Kusama strives to slowly ratchet up the suspense as the interaction between the characters becomes increasingly disturbing. Will effectively functions as the audience surrogate, asking the questions that the audience wants asked (with several major exceptions) and the chilling score helps to cultivate the sense of an impending violent climax. But it’s the material itself that makes the film less than thrilling. The ease with which the character’s shrug off the ever growing number of warning signs and each other’s downright absurd behavior is too baffling to keep you invested in their fates. The ending is an attempt to provoke a sense of awe by extending the horror beyond the house in which nearly the whole story takes place, but by then you’re too frustrated to care.
–Michael Clawson originally posted this review on Letterboxd 04/08/16
Available on Netflix