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).
Karyn Kusama’s 2015 film The Invitation is worth watching but not for the reasons you might think. It is best to approach the film without grand expectations and with the realization that it is not your typical horror movie. It is better described as a psychological mystery/drama.
The general narrative structure is straight-forward at best and highly predictable. The mystery of the invitation is revealed early on, despite the attempt of hiding it with the uncomfortable atmosphere of the dinner party. Still, there are some redeeming qualities that make this film worth watching at least once.
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.
Found below are three different perspectives of David Gordon Green’s 2018 horror film, Halloween. Reviews are written by Lewis University students Chanon Penvari, Lucas Mickelson, and Braden Bentley.
Chanon Penvari: Halloween (2018)
This film is not a remake film of Halloween (1978); instead, this is the story that takes place 40 years after. Since Michael Myers was first introduced in Halloween (1978), Myers has become one of the most iconic serial killers of all time. And, because Halloween’s (2018) timeline is 40 years after the first Halloween (1978), this means Michael Myers has killed five people, and it has been established that Laurie Strode and Michael Myers are not siblings. Michael Myers in Halloween (2018) is hungry for blood after being locked up in the hospital for 40 years.
Halloween (2018) utilizes many close-up shots to help make the viewer uncomfortable, and it also contains a long-take scene that is both thrilling and beautiful. In Halloween (1978), Myers’s signature act was standing still in the background, waiting patiently for the right time to kill. For this particular scene, the director, David Gordon Green, uses rack focus to increase the excitement for the viewer when they see Michael Myers blur in the background, then disappear.
During the silent film era, early filmmakers had to rely primarily on cinematography and mise-en-scène to establish setting and mood in order to engage the audience. Naturally, with the advancement of technology, films became more developed and complex, adding dialogue and making actors’ delivery and performances more important. But through all the developments of the film industry, one factor remains the same: a film must have great cinematography; and, a good cinematographer can make, or break, any film, especially on the independent circuit. John Carpenter knew this when gathering his crew for a small independent film titled Halloween, now historically preserved as one of the greatest films in history, and he chose a man who would end up changing not only his own career but Carpenter’s as well—that man is Dean Cundey.
For our Spring 2019 issue of Jet Fuel Review (with cover art by artist Delano Dunn) there is a special section that presents collaborative writing, which is writing that multiple artist’s crafted. As a way to celebrate the successful launch of our 17th issue, we’ve asked some of students, faculty, and alumni to join in and construct a piece, or multiple, that they created with their peers.
Presented below is a segment of the Special Section’s introduction as written by JFR Managing Editor, Zakiya Cowan, and a collection of fantastic collaboratively written pieces by some of our very own editors of Jet Fuel Review as well as some members of the Lewis University community. In summation, each of these pieces remain as a showcase of the bridge of collaboration and we are excited to present this talent.
Found below are two reviews of Jennifer Kent’s 2014 film, The Babadook, written by Lewis University students Margaret Gotsch and Elise Rosenberger.
Margaret Gotsch: The “Black Dog” in The Babadook
Research shows that mental illness remains one of the strongest taboos and that people with mental illness face wide-spread stigmatization and discrimination. Mental illness is often described as a black cloud. Portrayals of mental illness frequently appear in films and the media; for instance, the 2010 film by Darren Aronofsky, which detailed a dancer’s struggle with schizophrenia, was entitled Black Swan; and, Winston Churchill – reportedly a manic-depressive – called his mental illness the “black dog.”
In director Jennifer Kent’s 2014 film, The Babadook, the black dog of mental illness is depicted as a large, amorphous black shape. In the film, Amelia is reeling from the loss of her husband, the demands of single parenthood, and the troubling behavior of her only son, Samuel. At first, it appears that Samuel is the problem, but like a canary in a mine, it becomes apparent that Samuel’s misbehavior merely foreshadows greater problems within this nuclear family. Samuel has violent outbursts and is expelled from school for hurting a classmate. Samuel blames Mr. Babadook, a character from a book, for his misdeeds. Babadook – “a bad book” – predicts that Mr. Babadook will come to a child and ask to be let in and will then ask the same of the child’s mother.