Being an independent and low budget Netflix original, The Invitation brings a lot to the table within the horror genre. The rich dialogue between the characters and the mystery about the main character’s past provide a suspenseful and eerie feeling all the way through, while leaving the audience to wonder if the main character’s suspicions about his hosts are correct, or if he is just playing into his chasmic paranoia.
Competently directed by Karin Kusama, the movie is about eleven people, most of whom are old friends who haven’t seen each other in two years, who are brought together by a formal invitation to a dinner party hosted by Eden (Tammy Blanchard), a close friend of the group, and her new husband David (Michiel Huismen). Will (Logan Marshall-Green), the ex-husband of Eden, becomes increasingly suspicious of her and David throughout the dinner party, while his friends seem or act oblivious to the obvious strangeness of the couple, who obsessively talk about the cult-like group they have recently joined. On top of this, Eden and David have invited two guests from the cult, Pruitt and Sadie (John Carroll Lynch and Lindsay Burdge), which further heightens Will’s distrust. Unfortunately for him, the rest of his friends are too polite to mention that anything is out of the ordinary. This sets up the perfect situation for paranoia induced chaos to ensue. In fact, this is the main reason this movie works so well, because it constantly walks the line of whether the hosts truly have evil intentions, or if the audience is just seeing everything from the perspective of Will’s damaged mental state.
The pacing of the movie is masterfully done, never losing steam and constantly leaving the viewer in suspense, with the truth about what’s going on shrouded in mystery. We eventually find out that Will and Edens’ son was killed in an accident, which provides an explanation for why both of their psyches are so mangled. The suspense keeps the audience captivated and yearning for a conclusion, which does not disappoint in the final act, though is rather predictable. One flaw in the film, however, is the behavior of the other characters, who are all too polite to admit that anything is out of the ordinary. Although it’s an added element of intrigue, the fact that not even one of the friends agrees with Will, especially because of how absurd Eden and her guests become, seems entirely unrealistic. Not only does this oddity un-immerse the audience in the story, it’s even on the verge of being a plot hole. Even so, this aspect by no means breaks the film.
Overall, The Invitation does a great job in setting up a tense and uneasy atmosphere, coupled with rich character exposition and dialogue. Almost everything in the film is excellently coordinated, especially with it’s budget of only $1 million. The movie takes a morbid look at what happens when etiquette and politeness causes people to downplay the danger of their situation.