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  Invitation, The I Suppose You're All Wondering Why I Brought You Here TonightBuy this film here.
Year: 2015
Director: Karyn Kusama
Stars: Logan Marshall-Green, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Aiden Lovekamp, Michelle Krusiec, Mike Doyle, Jordi Vilasuso, Jay Larson, Marieh Delfino, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Lindsay Burdge, John Carroll Lynch, Toby Huss, Danielle Camastra
Genre: Horror, Drama
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) have received an invitation from his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard), who he has had no contact with for a couple of years, to meet with her for a dinner party. Their other friends will be there, and it should be a pleasant evening in contrast to how they parted, which was the result of a tragedy, but he remains wary and on the way up to his previous home in the hills which he used to share with Eden, a possibly ominous event occurs. A coyote runs in front of the car and is seriously injured, so Will must put it out of its misery with a tyre iron, not something he relishes but he cannot in all conscience leave it to suffer...

The Invitation was one of a number of low budget horrors that won some attention as standing out from an overcrowded field, and though not everyone was convinced as to its merits, that was par for the course with this sort of material as this was a genre where it appeared the audience was growing ever more difficult to impress. However, if you appreciated a slow-burning suspense piece where you knew something terrible was going to happen to at least one of the characters, maybe more, then this should satisfy you as it began like a play once Will and Kira had arrived at the swanky house, with a substantial degree of conversation that you either were intrigued by or were impatient with.

If you were the former, watching well-to-do Los Angeleans on a journey into darkest night might have reminded you of The Exterminating Angel, a more famous movie that featured a group of dinner party guests who find they have trouble leaving the location of their evening's entertainment. This was less surreal than that and more adopting a thriller framework, but director Karyn Kusama was obviously well versed in how to keep what was essentially a single location story with a lot of chat interesting, and this slotted into the type drama where a bunch of folks begin to get on each other's nerves in a relatively confined space, not necessarily winding up in a dreadful place but at least emerging changed from the experience by the end of the film.

When the couple are greeted, all seems normal enough, but is Eden a little more spacey than Will remembers? And why is everyone so welcoming and frankly keen to hug him and Kira when he doesn't know some of them as much as the others? That, we learn, could well be down to what broke up the ex-husband and wife, which Will suffers flashbacks from as he has returned to the scene: their young son died, and Eden never got over it. Or so he thought, as she comes across as very calm and collected when they meet... maybe a shade too calm for a woman who last time they were in one another's lives was attempting to slash her wrists over the kitchen sink. And who are these people she knows but he doesn't? Plus Choi, his old pal, was supposed to be there, but there's no sign of him. All of which can be explained away by the passing of time and the characters moving on, no matter how sympathetic they may be to what happened in the past.

But then there's the matter of the video Eden and new husband David (Michiel Huisman) play the assembled on their laptop. It indicates they are part of a cult of self-actualisation, in a nineteen-seventies kind of way though you imagine in this social strata such organisations never quite went out of fashion, and further to that appears to help those who have experienced the death of a loved one through a particular brand of therapy. That was the loose theme, the inability to adapt to the grieving process that would have done certain individuals a lot of benefit had they not overthought the entire, often harrowing, time that can be. Whether you could apply that to a personal story or a more wide ranging one as a community, a nation, made some curious, even dangerous choices when getting in touch with your feelings was so difficult was up to the viewer, but the bastardisation of compassion, or the outright denial of it for your own emotional gain, was a very twenty-first century concern. Here the plot skilfully extrapolated that to an apocalypse just around the corner through modest means but impressive impact. Music by Theodore Shapiro.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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