‘The Invitation’ Review: Feel Free to Kindly Decline

A bad August horror film? Now I’ve seen it all!

“The Invitation” stars Nathalie Emmanuel as a young American woman who discovers she has distant family in England, only upon arriving realize they have a sinister secret. Jessica M. Thompson directs and co-writes, as Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Courtney Taylor, Hugh Skinner, and Sean Pertwee also star.

This film’s trailer just *screamed* “showed too much.” From the plot given to the shots used, it seemed like it revealed all the interesting things the film possibly held. As you’re going see, I don’t believe the film is worth watching but should you wish to ignore my words and seek it out anyways, at least avoid the trailer.

“The Invitation” has no idea what it wants to be. Its plot and reveals lend themselves to a campy premise, if not dark comedy, but rarely does it lean into all that. The few inspired moments come when the film (whether on purpose or accident) does have a level of self-deprecation with its bump-in-the-night scares. The twist in the film is clever-enough, and had the trailers not shown it then perhaps it would be a fun little spin on something we’ve seen before. But alas.

Every film wants to be the next “Get Out” and blend horror and social commentary, and this is yet another one that fails. Taking on both race and gender, the film awkwardly forces talking points into a tale that should be an easy metaphor for what men expect of women to be as a typical bride. It’s not the worst or most pandering example of a filmmaker wanting to have their film say something topical, but end of the day the dialogue is pretty on-the-nose. Nathalie Emmanuel, bless her, tries her best, but her character is written in a very unlikable way.

The horror aspects are shot pretty poorly, with dimly-lit rooms, shaky cams, and rapid edits obscuring much of what we’re supposed to be seeing. There are a few inspired camera angles, and being set at a fancy countryside abbey offers some handsome-looking set pieces, but it’s no better than the weaker “Conjuring” films.

When you go to the theater in the month of August, even in our current times where movie schedules seemingly change every week, you don’t go expecting Oscar quality films (that’ll start in about a month!). “The Invitation” has flashes of being a better movie than the sum of its parts, but the end result is a movie that is a bit of slog and instantly forgettable.

Critics Rating: 4/10


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