The Invitation by Jessica M. Thompson is packed with secrets like these and has all the makings of a thrilling and unsettling horror film. The issue is that the picture gives away too much of its plot early on.
After sending off one of those DNA tests, freshly widowed New York waitress Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) receives a surprising communication from her long lost (and very affluent) second cousin Oliver (Hugh Skinner). The message initiates a coffee date, which in turn leads to an invitation to a wedding in a country house in England. This is a big family reunion, and everyone will get a chance to catch up with one other. By accepting the invitation, Evie is introduced to the charming Lord of the house, Walter (Thomas Doherty), and thrust into a world of unpleasant relatives, racist servants, and eerie occurrences.
Do you hear echoes of “Get Out”? A number of ideas from Jordan Peele’s masterwork are used in The Invitation. From the minute she arrives, Evie is subjected to racist microaggressions, such as when the head butler (Sean Pertwee) mistakes her for a member of staff and acts rudely, and when bridesmaid Viktoria (Stephanie Corneliussen) reaches out to touch Evie’s hair without asking. Similar to the film Get Out, the protagonist may feel as though everyone around her is staring at her for reasons she cannot fathom.
The marketing for The Invitation has effectively ruined almost all of the main discoveries within. While it’s understandable that Sony would want to tell potential viewers that this is a vampire movie that updates the Dracula mythos, others would argue that viewers would have a more enjoyable and rewarding time if they went into the film fully blind.
The Invitation is best described as a cross between Get Out and Ready or Not, but with a PG-13 rating and additional fangs. The film’s gonzo horror aspect begins when a wedding at a remote family house goes horribly wrong, forcing Evie out of her familiar environment and into the company of curiously polite, eccentric white people who are obviously hiding dark and terrible secrets. Thompson’s film falls short of both of those lauded experiments in controlled horror due to a lack of genuine scares and occasionally leaden pacing.
The Invitation works fine as it is. Evie’s story is interesting despite its predictability since it takes a “fish out of water” perspective on a gothic tale about spooky relatives from another nation. Maybe it’s because people believe they’ll benefit in the end. In spite of the numerous jump scares intended to dampen audience enthusiasm, the film has yet to reveal its turn to the vampire side of things.
There’s bound to be additional laughs after the film reveals the real deal and abandons the charade it had been playing. Even at this point in the film, though, there’s a feeling of wanting the protagonists to delve into the shadows, where the real action might be. Vampires have always been popular with audiences, so why not explore stories where the protagonist is truly interested in living as a vampire?
We can assume that The Invitation only desired to incorporate Evie the Vampire Slayer into a story. That’s fine and dandy, too, but the movie probably can’t delve too far into the idea (due to budget constraints). The work put forth by Jessica M. Thompson as director isn’t completely pointless because to the spirited nature of the piece. Nonetheless, the film never completely sets up greater stakes.
It’s not the worst movie ever made its somewhere around the midway mark in terms of rating landing it a Horror Facts 2.5 out of 5 stars.
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