The Invitation (2022): A Horror Thriller Without the ThrillAugust 16, 2023
The film starts with a stamp. We are not eased into the horror, we’re dropped on it. Deep, cold blue palate. A typical haunted house with the thriller SFXs accentuating the scare. A freaked-out woman running from an enigmatic voice before… Her head, clean off her body drops to the floor.
We definitely know what we are in for. And we’re thrilled for the ride.
But then the film cuts to a bright, almost saturated scene. And all the suspense flies out the window. Because from the moment we meet the beautiful Game of Thrones star, Nathalie Emanuel’s character all happy and bubbly, we pretty much know how this is going to end. A horror film is just as great as its ability to hold our suspense like a suppressed fart. And sadly, this one failed big time.
But it’s not all bad.
Just a moment before we get to the good. Picture this; a black person upon the invitation of a white relation visits a remote, old, yet obscenely wealthy white resident. The reception is grand. The black person is treated like an exotic bird. There’s even subtle but innocent racism like curious touches of hair. Amidst a sea of whiteness, the black person starts noticing weird oddities, some of which they share on the phone with their best friend, also black and with witty clapbacks. Soon, all hell is let loose when the black person discovers they’ve all along been sitting duck awaiting dinner, and they have to fight for their lives.
Sounds familiar? Yes! Of course, it does! This is the plot of Jordan Peele’s 2017 horror dramedy Get Out. It’s a pity every horror film since then has attempted to mirror Get Out in one way or the other, and The Invitation is very guilty.
Co-written and directed by Jessica M. Thompson, The Invitation follows Nathalie Emanuel’s character, Evie who through an online DNA test discovers she has a long-lost English family. A cousin invites her to attend a wedding in the English countryside only to discover that the wedding is for her and an ancient blood-thirsty vampire, and her newfound family are not what they seemed. The aftermath is as horrifying and as bloody as it gets.
Nathalie Emanuel as Evelyn delivers a natural performance and is gracious and effortless with her character. Her chemistry with Thomas Doherty (Walter) is so real, almost palpable. And Doherty does a solid job selling his character. With all the mysterious, charming yet broody characterization, Doherty actually makes us feel like he’s indeed centuries old.
The director does a terrific job with the cinematography. The visuals are so good they almost make up for the poor writing. I say almost because nothing can really make up for poor writing. Which is the biggest problem with this film.
The writing loses its suspense early on and fails terribly at maintaining the tension. In a scene in the mid-film, a character says to Evie who is in a house with fortified doors, “It’s not safe in the dark”. Like the writers feel the need to remind the audience that they should be scared.
For the most part of the film, the director relies too heavily on cheap jump scares to keep us on the edge. The jump scares don’t work because they are neither earned nor sincere. Also on the writing part, the attempt to balance comedy and horror like in Get Out flops because the setup is just too dark for the jokes to work.
The reference to the Dracula story introduces a horde of tropes that completely kills the plot and gives us a less satisfying end.
The Invitation begins with a great premise, keeps us hooked for me most part but ultimately fails at maintaining the tension. Otherwise, it’s a very entertaining film.
I give it a 3 out of 5 rating.