See now this, this is exactly what these marathons are supposed to be about right here! I’d sort of heard of The Invitation, but didn’t have a sense of whether it’s supposed to be a quality product. I didn’t have any sense whatsoever of what the movie was about, other than presumably someone, or perhaps many someones, get invited somewhere. As for what they did when they arrive at the place they’ve been invited, whether it be a house or a cabin or some sort of vacation or a wedding or who knows, I had no idea. Maybe they would all just sit around and chat about life before parting ways amicably. Maybe they would suddenly be stalked by a masked killer and murdered one by one. Maybe they would get lost on the way to their destination and it would turn into a raucous road comedy. All this to say, I knew nothing about this movie, and I feel that is absolutely the proper way to approach it.
For that reason, I’m not even going to go beyond the most surface ass surface level description of what the plot of The Invitation actually is. For starters, yes people do indeed get invited somewhere. It’s to a big house for a dinner party. There are in fact many someones invited. One of these people is Ryan Atwood’s brother from The OC and the house belongs to his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. One of the invitees is also Drew Carey’s brother from the Drew Carey show. The evening is largely normal, though there is always the hint that something strange is happening. Is something strange happening? You’ll just have to see!
God damn, I really enjoyed The Invitation but I can’t stress enough how much of that enjoyment stemmed from having absolutely no idea where things were headed at any point. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time as the movie is in no hurry to reveal to you what its master plan is. The amount of confidence on display here is highly admirable. This movie is in no hurry to deliver a lot of what you may expect from a horror movie. It is ready to take it’s time and doesn’t give a fuck what you want. That could come off like a bad thing, but trust me this is anything but boring. The methodical pace only adds to the tension as you never truly know when shit is going to hit the fan, in what way it will happen, or even if it will happen at all. You could put this movie on and tell someone it’s a drama and they would believe you for quite a while, though there’s always enough menace lingering below the surface that they would likely be suspicious of you and your lies.
In my review of the bad bad bad slasher movie Most Likely to Die, I criticized it because so much of the movie is spent on people who haven’t seen each other in a while, talking about a bunch of shit that isn’t interesting. The Invitation also has a bunch of people sitting around and talking, but the key difference here is that they are characters that are far easier to get invested in. They don’t just flatly bark exposition at each other like in Most Likely to Die. There are actual relationships here and everything feels a lot more natural. It adds to the sense of dread as you start to really root against anything bad happening to these people so whenever things start to head in a potentially negative direction, your stomach starts to knot up. Or mine did at least. Maybe you and your iron stomach can handle this shit, I don’t know.
The performances are solid across the board, but Logan Marshall-Green (aka Trey Atwood) is definitely the stand-out as the lead character Will. He acts as the audience surrogate, being the one person who constantly seems on edge when things get weird. He’s the only one who seems to notice that the evening feels a tad off in general, and is not afraid to straight up call the hosts out on their bullshit. It’s always satisfying to see him bust into “are you fucking kidding me with this? Don’t any of you see how fucking whacked these people are?” mode. John Caroll Lynch, who again I primarily remember from The Drew Carey Show even though I know he’s appeared in a ton of other things, is very good as well, creating a character who switches from huggable to menacing at the drop of a hat. Drop of a pin? Drop of something for sure.
The Invitation is certainly not going to be for everyone. As I said, it is not afraid to take things achingly slow and while for me that worked out well, others are definitely going to find it boring. I do wish they had stuck the landing a little better after such a tremendous build-up, but that’s one of the few criticisms I have to lay against this movie. This one is a bright spot, perhaps the brightest spot, in what has largely been a sea of sludge and poop during this years’ horror marathon.