The Movie: 7/10
I NEVER do this with reviews, but today I am not feeling great, sore throat, tired, feeling less inhibited because that takes energy and I have none to spare. Therefore, there might be spoilers in this review. You have been warned, read at your own peril.
Horror comes in a lot of shapes and sizes and scares. The Invitation offers a lot of the established tropes like cell phones that have no service, going into a room or outside when everyone else KNOWS you should NOT go anywhere alone, and sadly parents mourning a child who has passed away, but not handling it very well (as if anyone in real like could). All this old-fashioned stuff is really feeds into the overall “This is a Horror movie” vibe, but this movie does throw a few new-ISH ideas at us so it hooked me from the start and I went along for the ride with my eyes open wide waiting for each twist and turn.
We get another trope, a group of old friends coming back together after a long time. I did say at the first bathroom break, “This is like The Big Chill, but dark, very dark.” Our group of friends were together the sad even of the child dying occurred a couple of years ago. The couple has broken up since, the mother of the child disappeared for the 2 years and the father is, well, he’s broody and broken, we’ll leave it at that. The friends feel awkward to begin with, and then we get the added character, a NON-friend, the mother’s new boyfriend, which doesn’t help. He’s weirdly hippie dippie, inclusive, calm (TOO calm) and so yea, immediately I was thinking CULT. I was not wrong. I won’t spoil things fully, but I will say that The Invitation is more than an invitation for old friends to have dinner together.
We get more “fish out of water” characters who show up to support the vibe that something very weird is going on. The father of the child is suspicious and on edge about everything. We are toyed with about whether or not he is just bonkers or if something is going on, also an old movie/story telling trick. Remember what I said before, I was not wrong about the cult thing…sooooo yea, weird stuff is going to happen.
The build up of the character introductions and laying out the mental state of everyone, messing with our heads with false scares and some pretty lame dialogue to tell us the story through fake conversations, all takes a while, but in a good way. OK, not GOOD good, but reasonable with flaws, how’s that? It’s not a clever script in terms of dialogue, far far from it. Heck, it’s not that clever all the way around, but hey, something about it kept me on the hook throughout the whole thing.
I think it was the unknown element, that I did not know where it was going a lot of the time, which makes me very interested in a story. We all guess what’s going to happen in most movies and with these types you KNOW someone is going to die horrifically….hence the genre name:) The overriding story though, the payoff, the purpose, the bigger picture, this time around I did not figure it out. That is enough for me.
The cast is fine, not that memorable, but functional. The music is good, strange and sets the tone just right for the tension and the scares and the emotions. The directing isn’t far out or anything, no over the top shots, just a lot of straight up camera work that lets the people and the story do the work.
Overall, if you like a bit of a carefully paced story with dialogue that makes you roll your eyes, but by the end you are thinking, “holy shit, didn’t see that coming”, The Invitation is for you. Beware, some characters are boring and seemingly pointless, but hey, all folks who are not the leading man/woman in a horror flick are disposable, right?
- Commentary With Director Karyn Kusama & Writers Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi – A really nice discussion that is intelligent and forthright. Lighting issues are discussed which explain why some of the film looks grimy and dark.
- The Making Of The Invitation (10 Minutes) – Not really a making of film, more a look at the cast and characters of the film. Some nice shots of Karyn Kusama who seems very serious and focused on set.
- Baby Your Gone/O My Child Music Video’s – Music from the film.
- Booklet & Reversible Cover Art – The packaging of this Blu-ray is superb especially for a small Indie movie. Remove the slipcover and you are greeted with a clear Blu-Ray case that has reversible artwork similar to an Arrow release. Inside the box a booklet with an essay on the film is included and a RSVP card that enables a Vimeo digital copy.
- UV Digital Copy
Cover Art and Menus: 6/10
I am rarely neutral about cover art, but this time I am not feeling any kind of like or dislike of the image they have chosen. It represents the kind of creepiness of the movie, and it’s a striking image, but then it’s kind of blah. Hmmm I’m not sure how I feel about not feeling any certain way about this. I would probably not have it as a poster just because it doesn’t have anything about it that makes me want to see it every time I enter a room in our house:).
Audio & Video: 6/10
Draft house chose to use a single layer 25Gb disc to house the movie which in my opinion was a misstep. The film is very dark only using natural lighting so the 20mbps bit-rate has a lot of contend with. This leaves the picture looking murky and not very HD like in parts. The DVD copy also included in the box looks soft and noisy also and there is not a ton of difference between the two. Detail can be high in certain shots but this is not a movie you will pull out to show off your home theatre.
Drafthouse also opted for a downgrade on the audio which is unusual as they normally use lossless audio on most of their releases. The Invitation is offered up in Dolby Digital with a max bit rate of 640kbps. Still it’s a solid listening experience with clear lifelike dialog and very loud jump scares which will literally make you jump out of your seat.
Overall Score /10