TL;DR – A completely generic story slightly elevated by a cast understanding what type of film it is and playing to it.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene.
Disclosure – I paid to see this film.
The Invitation Review –
There is a whole world of mythology waiting to be mined for ideas, yet we always seem to come back to one or two touchstones, one of which is vampires. The question then becomes, can you do something new in a space that has been mined for hundreds of years? Probably not, but can you still make it entertaining? Well, that is the question we get to explore in today’s film, The Invitation.
So to set the scene, we open in a dark mansion on a stormy night. A woman in a white dress breaks out of her locked room and runs through the building but not seeing an escape, she decides to kill herself than stay where she is. Moving to New York City, we meet Evelyn “Evie” Jackson (Nathalie Emmanuel), a struggling ceramics artist who takes up catering jobs to make a living. After one of those jobs, she gets one of the leftover goodie bags with a DNA kit. Lo and behold, she discovered that she had a relative, a cousin called Oliver (Hugh Skinner), who happened to be coming to New York from England on business. When they meet up, Oliver invites her to the social wedding of the century at the estate of Walter De Ville (Thomas Doherty). There be red flags a plenty, but without any family of her own left, Evie takes the trip, unsure of what she will find on the other side of the pond.
The strength of The Invitation is that it knows what type of film it is and plays into it. Stephanie Corneliussen is chewing every bit of scenery on offer as Viktoria in a delightfully camp way. Thomas Doherty has a mile-wide smile, so even though he is a charming delight as Walter De Ville, you already know something suss is up. Sean Pertwee is perfect as the uptight chief butler Mr Field and slips perfectly in that Downton Abby ‘knowing you place’ snootiness. Also, Nathalie Emmanuel has a bunch of work to do in this film as the fish-out-of-water/audience-insert/person-who-dose-not-know-they-are-in-a-horror-film character. She nails the job, and I love how she uses compassion and empathy throughout the film. It also helps that the sets in this film are lusciously gothic, perfect for the setting and for leading unexpecting help to their doom.
However, while many interesting things are happening here, nothing can help hide the fact that this is a generic story. I am not sure any person would be shocked by how the film plays out. Indeed, you will probably know everything that will happen from that opening walk through the castle. It is a film that likes to dabble in iconography and themes but lacks substance. Instead, we get a version of Get Out, but with vampires instead and without the structural support to make that work.
In the end, do we recommend The Invitation? Well… unfortunately, I don’t think so. There are some interesting ideas here, and the setting is certainly there, as is the cast. But overall, there is just not enough substance to make a film like this soar. If you liked The Invitation, I would also recommend to you The Shape of Water.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Invitation
Directed by – Jessica M. Thompson
Written by – Blair Butler
Music by – Dara Taylor
Cinematography by – Autumn Eakin
Edited by – Tom Elkins
Production/Distribution Companies – Screen Gems, Mid Atlantic Films, Emile Gladstone Productions & Sony Pictures
Starring – Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Sean Pertwee, Hugh Skinner, Virág Bárány, Courtney Taylor, Kata Sarbó, Jeremy Wheeler, Carol Ann Crawford & Scott Alexander Young
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: PG-13