I’m never going to a dinner party in the Hollywood Hills, no matter how good looking the people are.
Subdued, meticulous and distinctive in tone, The Invitation is a film whose horrors lie in human behavior rather than supernatural forces. Director Karyn Kusama taps into the primal nature of paranoia and suspicion to craft an engrossing psychological thriller that will do everything it can to spike your anxiety up into the stratosphere. The film also serves as a poignant study of grief and the lengths a person will go to free themselves of its pain.
The strength of The Invitation comes from its unpredictability: it keeps the audience second-guessing every visual cue and character action. The sense of unease stems from dissonance among the characters. Their situation continually gets weirder as the film goes along, but the nature of social etiquette keeps everyone quiet. The filmmakers keenly exploit people’s innate impulse to side-step public displays of strangeness to conjure up an excellent sense of sustained tension. The film is a series of tensions and diffusions. Carefully placed diversions keep us and protagonist Will (a tour-de-force Logan Marshall-Green) on edge, constantly rethinking and reanalyzing the situation.
Kusama is also in no rush to tell her story. The film’s pacing resembles an onion: layers peel back steadily, giving us only as much information as necessary. The brilliance of the editing lies in the film’s alignment with Will. We never know more than him, and his perspective is the movie. Keeping us in step with Will’s line of sight maintains the apprehension, feeding our uncertainty and doubt.
However, the film’s real power lies in its allegories. The shock and awe of its scares and surprises are more potent because of the emotional richness drawn from its themes and characters. There’s a conflict embedded in the film, a questioning posited. When is self-forgiveness a mask for denial? Is one’s awareness of death an honorable honesty or a charlatan’s façade? These internal battles play out in cataclysmic fashion, harrowing the characters and viewers alike to the bitter end.
BIO: Chris J. Patiño is a senior at Lewis University, working toward a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. Inspired at an early age by the late great Roger Ebert, he looks to follow in the (Godzilla-sized) footsteps of the legendary film critic and add his voice to the choir of movie discourse. Student during the day, Panera Bread delivery driver by night, Chris often spends his time daydreaming about being bitten by a radioactive spider and fighting crime. In between woolgatherings, he reviews movies for The Lewis Flyer, goes to the gym and hosts game nights with friends. He enjoys just about every genre of film, but favorites include horror, sci-fi, superhero and action movies. Favorite authors include Stephen King and Jim Butcher, with favorite novels being The Dresden Files series, the Harry Potter series, Salem’s Lot, Pet Sematary, The Shining, The Strain, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and All the President’s Men.