**Warning: spoilers ahead**
Welcome to yet another dinner party from hell, which could very well be the tagline for Karyn Kusama’s 2015 film The Invitation. This film is the definition of a slow burn because whenever you think something violent is about to happen, it pivots in a new direction. However, this doesn’t mean it’s void of tension as it’s always there simmering beneath the surface. Every sound from the clattering of wine glasses to the constant beeping of a car engine is articulated to the point where audiences are left waiting for a release that will never come (until the last 30 minutes of the film that is).
Kusama, along with cinematographer Bobby Shore, does a wonderful job creating an aesthetically pleasing film where meaning is infused into every image. The film predominantly takes place during the present day, but it does feature systematically-placed flashbacks to flesh out character backstory. The cooler tones used in flashbacks give off a nurturing and calming effect that comes with domestic bliss while the transition to warmer tones represents the underlying anger of the present that will inevitably boil to the surface. The inclusion of a low-key lighting scheme, which is a staple in the horror and thriller genres, bathes the whole interior in shadows to further emphasize the mysterious nature of the evening.
Throughout The Invitation, there is a theme of death and how individuals deal with grief. When we are at our most vulnerable is often when vultures strike because we are more susceptible to their influence. No matter how twisted their ideology may be the “monsters” are victims themselves who are only doing what they’ve been told will free them from their pain, which in the end is a very human emotion. This is adeptly conveyed by all the actors involved, but particularly by Tammy Blanchard’s portrayal of Eden, a woman who is desperately trying to escape an all-consuming grief. I recommend going in knowing nothing about The Invitation to obtain the maximum effect, which is surprising coming from someone who reads film synopses because she hates surprises.
BIO: Megan O’Brien is a senior at Lewis University majoring in Radio/TV Broadcasting and minoring in Film Studies. Although she is still planning for life upon graduation, she is interested in pursuing a career in publishing as she would love to spend the rest of her life discovering exciting new books. When she is not binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy, she works as a tutor at the University’s Writing Center and as a swim instructor at her local fitness center. Her passions include reading fantasy novels, watching movies and TV shows, swimming, and playing with her dogs at home.