Flick Pick: The Invitation

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Dread. That’s the word that comes to mind when talking about director Karyn Kusama’s new thriller, The Invitation. Unsettling, confusing yet completely awesome dread. It starts to develop as a group of old friends gathers for a dinner party after two years of losing touch. It doesn’t take long to realize this isn’t a normal soiree. What are the hosts hiding? What’s behind that door? And why does everyone seem so incredibly calm?

THE-INVITATION_Hosts1From the start, The Invitation sets a creepy scene. Driving through the Hollywood Hills, Will (Logan Marshall-Green; pictured in feature image) and his girlfriend, Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), are en route to a dinner party when their car hits a coyote. To put the animal out of its misery, Will kills it off with a tire iron. Upon the couple’s arrival at the get-together, we learn the hosts are Will’s ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard), and her new husband, David (Michiel Huisman; both pictured above). Eden is the embodiment of grace as she swirls around the house, charming all of their old friends, but Will immediately finds her behavior suspicious. Although the film doesn’t spell it out for us, we know their marriage suffered a traumatic end that left Eden suicidal. How could she be completely fine now, when Will obviously still has issues?

THE-INVITATION_DinnerA huge factor in this, Will believes, is Eden’s new husband. Together, Eden and David sit their guests down in the living room, where they present a videotape. It’s a recruitment video for the Invitation, a group of people—put more simply, a cult—all of whom have endured bouts of serious depression. Living in Mexico under the direction of their spiritual guide, they lose their feelings of sadness, never to have them return. The video, despite being insanely creepy, doesn’t leave all the guests as visibly shaken as it does Will. It seems to have worked for Eden. To each her own?

THE-INVITATION_GatheringBut Will won’t let it go. The film plays out like a stage production, as we skirt around this enchanting home, catching glimpses of odd behavior around every corner and in each conversation. The most suspicious guests are David and Eden’s new hippie friends from Mexico, Sadie (Lindsay Burdge) and Pruitt (John Carroll Lynch), who are definitely hiding something. As dinner is served, Will—and the rest of us—has reached his breaking point. He insists on uncovering the other characters’ ulterior motives as accusations are thrown, tempers rise, and everything gets put on the table.

The genius storytelling of Kusama and writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi is what makes The Invitation so great. The masterful way they reveal as little as possible, leaving you to subconsciously connect the dots in your head, successfully lets the ending really hit you—and it hits you hard. But don’t get too comfortable. It’s not actually over until that final image pans across the screen, in one last shocking twist. You hear it, then you see it…and suddenly everything becomes clear in the scariest way imaginable.

Check out the trailer below, and be sure to see The Invitation, opening today in theaters and On Demand.

Photos courtesy of Drafthouse Films

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