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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Review: The Invitation

Director: Karyn Kusama

Screenplay: Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi

Year: 2015

I can still remember when "The Invitation" arrived on Netflix and took everyone by surprise. It appeared in its catalog without making much noise, but it slowly piled up positive reviews, and more and more people were recommending it, many of them considering it one of the best movies of the year. 

After the tragic loss of their son, Will and Eden break up while each of them deals with their grief. After disappearing for two years, Eden sends an invitation to Will and other common friends to reunite in her house. Once everyone gets together at the house, they see Eden changed and happy, which leads Will to believe that this reunion has a hidden intention. 

Since Will receives the dinner invitation, he can't avoid feeling uncomfortable, which actor Logan Marshall-Green (“Upgrade”) skillfully gets across. After seeing Eden (Tammy Blanchard; “Into the Woods”) with her apparent serenity and some out of place actions by her new husband David (Michiel Huisman; “Game of Thrones”), Will is put on alert and only fuels his discomfort and suspicion. This sets in motion a power struggle between Will against Eden and David, where Will's emotional stability and the dinner’s purpose are put into question.

The screenplay from Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi is based on how different people process a tragic loss and their grieving process. For this, they depend much on the emotions they can evoke from different situations, all well captured by director Karym Kusama (“Jennifer’s Body”) and excellently portrayed by the whole cast. The script’s quality gets the viewer’s full attention from the opening scene and makes each character interesting and important for the plot development.

Although all characters play an important role, two key characters that might go under the radar are Sadie (Lindsay Burdge; “Easy”) and Pruitt (John Carroll Lynch; “Zodiac”), the two strange friends of Eden and David that seem out of place in the dinner. During the plot development, there is a lot of debate if Will’s suspicions about the dinner’s purpose are correct or if his reactions are part of paranoia caused by his suffering. However, how strange and out of place these characters feel keeps alive the suspicions that Eden and David are part of a cult, which garners more relevance as the plot goes on.

This level of strong emotions leads to a third act where the reason for all of them being there is revealed. One of the story’s strengths is how unpredictable it is, fueling each twist’s effectiveness and reveal during the tense development, especially during the explosive outcome. Up to the last moment, every twist takes you by surprise and leaves you open-mouthed.

“The Invitation” has become a favorite of many thriller and horror fans and is one of its decade’s best thrillers. The thrilling story in the great script, the superb acting, and the attention to detail is hypnotizing, and the effectiveness of its twists and reveals, influenced by how emotional the plot is, is striking. “The Invitation” not only captures you from the start, but it stays with you long after having watched it.

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