THE INVITATION – Killer Party, Man

[Depression hurts. Cymbalta can help.]

Have you ever tried to socialize while you were severely depressed? Have you ever been to a social event hosted by an ex and been forced to meet her awkward new friends? Have you ever thought you had been invited to a party as a pawn in a nefarious plan? If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing all these at the same time, let The Invitation be your guide!

The Invitation‘s greatest strength is that it feels really damn believable, even as things start to get weird. It really is the perfect storm of shitty social events. I typically hate it when films use such premises for awkward, embarrassing comedies, but played out as a suspenseful nightmare, it actually works quite well. Director Karyn Kusama juggles her ensemble cast well. The fact that none of the performances in particular stand out is a testament to how natural the gathering feels. These old friends feel perfectly believable together, which makes every off-putting interaction play as sinister in an interesting way. Even as Will, the protagonist, starts getting creeped out by the whole affair, it’s easy to see his concerns as amped up social anxiety.

Tone is key to film, but for suspense in particular. Fortunately, Kusama plays the tone perfectly throughout, slowly ratcheting up the panic factor to a fever pitch. She does a lot with a clearly minuscule budget, and that’s never something to scoff at. There are really only two faults I can find with the film, but they are substantial. One is that it introduces some really meaningful questions about how people process loss, but never really follows through on them in a meaningful way. Without spoiling anything, I also wish the film played out more creatively. It does a great job of playing against audience expectations, except for in some key beats that would have really set it apart from its peers.

The Invitation is a good suspense film, but never quite steps into the realm of must see. In the very least, genre fans will want to throw this one in their Netflix queues.

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