We streamed The Invitation on Netflix, where it has lived for quite some time. This is a movie that I enjoyed watching the second time around almost as much as I enjoyed watching it the first time. It’s tense, and feels strangely real – making it quite effective.
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The Invitation Poster
The Invitation Synopsis
The Invitation is a 2015 movie directed by Karen Kusama that follows protagonist, Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatz Corinealdi) who are on their way to a party that they have been invited to. The party is being hosted by Will’s Ex wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman).
The Invitation Trailer
A bevvy of Will’s old friends are also in attendance at the party, which, everyone agrees, seems weird. This air of weirdness follows the party through conversations and asides in bedrooms, kitchens, and lounge areas until we learn the reason for the party – to introduce everyone to this sweet new cult, known as The Invitation. Eden and David are joined by two personal friends, a flirty woman named Sadie (Lindsay Burdge) and a big, strong, man named Pruitt (John Carroll Lynch).
As the party progresses Will becomes increasingly skeptical and worried about the intentions of his hosts but no one else seems to share his feelings of paranoia and dread. Even when his hosts are caught locking the doors with a key from the inside, the party continues. How will this party end?
Short Review of The Invitation
The Invitation is an incredibly well crafted movie from beginning to end. It’s use of camera work, acting, casting, direction, soundtrack; it’s all intentional and skillful. This movie plays perfectly to me, the feelings of dread and seemingly unfounded, but strangely well-founded paranoia is right in my wheelhouse.
I think my favorite part of The Invitation is the discomfort that you feel in a party is so well intoned, and all of the acting matches so well with the characters and their desires/intentions. It feels real, and it feels upsetting, and I love it.
The only real criticism that I have of The Invitation is that the pacing slumps a teeny tiny bit in the middle, but I feel like it makes up for it with an incredible crescendo of an ending.
Score for The Invitation
What I Love About The Invitation
This movie takes a hard look at the human psyche, and at how we experience suffering and loss. It puts a magnifying glass on what we are willing to do to avoid the feelings of pain and suffering that haunt us throughout our lives.
It also does everything right.
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Soundtrack for The Invitation
This movie is mostly quiet, which goes a long way to accentuate the feeling of doom and foreboding that they are going for. What soundtrack there is is mostly played on solitary stringed instruments, and boy does it work. The minimalist approach works perfectly here and this movie really can drive a knife through you with only a violin.
Lighting for The Invitation
The color palate and lighting on this movie are intentionally dim and warm. It feels like a cozy dinner party in a mid-century modern house, and it also feels quite extravagant. I love the lighting in this movie because it simultaneously suggests that you should feel comfortable and is able to pull off the “you can’t see well, and that’s mildly unsettling” vibe.
Casting for The Invitation
The casting in this movie is superb because everyone so naturally fills the role of their character that I feel like the events of this movie actually took place.
Two of the most important characters to cast correctly are Pruitt (John Carroll Lynch) Sadie (Lindsay Burdge). These are the cult members who no one but Eden and David know, and they are there for the express purpose of getting or making people fall in-line with accepting the cult.
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Sadie plays an unhinged sex kitten so well that I have a hard time believing that Lindsay isn’t exactly that. And Pruitt is such an impressive force of a man to contend with that I now view John Carroll Lynch in a totally different light. He is well-known for his roles as the suburban dad character, or boss, but now I just see him as a terrifying man.
Spoilers for The Invitation
Killing the Coyote
The Invitation starts out with Will and Kira driving through the Hollywood Hills on their way to this party, and as they are driving the hit a coyote, injuring it. Never is there a dog, or coyote in frame, so for the squeamish, don’t worry too much.
I will say that, while I normally detest movies that kill dogs for an emotional rise in the audience, I think this works well to set the stage for the rest of the movie. It speaks to the theme of suffering present throughout the movie, and it tees up the a sense of unease when Will does the right thing and clubs the poor pup to put it out of it’s misery.
Arriving at the Most Awkward Party Ever
Will makes it clear to Kira and the audience in the car that this party is being held by his ex-wife and her new husband at her lavish family home that he and his ex once shared. Just knowing that tidbit, how could it not be an awkward party?
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Somehow, the party seems even more forced and awkward than one being thrown by your ex-wife has right to be. Everyone present at the party is a friend of the ex-couple and seems to acknowledge the feeling that this party is a bit weird.
The Reason for the Party
Will meets Eden in the kitchen and she makes a declaritive statement that she is doing “much better” and is, in fact, more happy than she has ever been in her life – which seems to boggle Will. Apparently they share a deep-dark past. She says, “Pain and suffering are optional.”
As the group coalesces in the living room they are formally let in on the reason for the party – The Invitation. This is the name of a cult that everyone in the room recognizes as a cult. David (who we now know is a cult member) disputes the idea that The Invitation is a cult with a video from the cult (great way to dispute that you are a cult, right?).
The video details some vague explanation of how the human brain can heal and can be rewired to avoid trauma. It invites the watches to an enlightened existence – you know, cult shit. Then it shows footage of a young woman in bed who dies on camera! This visibly and predictably upsets the party goers.
The Two Friends of Eden and David are…Weird
Sadie and Pruitt are probably the best inclusion of characters into this film. They are the “x-factors” that make everyone wonder what is going on. Sadie is clearly there to be a sex kitten, meant to draw in wayward men and help with the inhibitions of worried women.
Pruitt is the muscle. But for what? Why would the party need these things? We don’t know until the end, but it can’t be good to have to have these characters.
Where is Choi!?
As the movie progresses Will receives a voicemail through the otherwise spotty cell service at the house. The message is from Choi, a character that didn’t show up to the party when everyone else did. Everyone has been offhandedly mentioning him and how flaky he is, so until this point it seems like the absence of Choi has been easily explained away.
Will sees David lighting a red lantern in the backyard, which is weird.
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The message that Will receives is from Choi stating that he made it to the party early, and he will see Will there soon, whenever Will gets there.
Now Will is on high alert, and after he watches a video from the cult leader saying, “I know this will be hard but I can’t wait to see you…” Will knew everything was wrong.
Will Blows Up
While dinner is being served Will blows up and asks where Choi is. He explains that he received a voicemail from Choi and he should be here, but he isn’t, and “Why not!?”
At that exact moment, Choi walks in the door, making Will look like he’s nuts.
The REAL Blow Up
When the desert wine is being served, Will starts to put all the pieces together and blows up again, smashing everyone’s wine glasses and insisting that they not drink it. Everyone looks at Will in disgust, but this time Sadie attacks him saying, “You ruined everything!” It’s at this point that the movie flips the switch.
Sadie gets hurled into a desk by Will, bumping her head and being knocked unconscious. As one of the guests begins administering medical attention to her, everyone notices that Gina is passed out on the table foaming at the mouth having been the only person who tasted the wine. David executes the guest who is trying to help Sadie with a pistol, and suddenly the party is over.
As Pruitt kicks into high gear killing everyone in sight, Will and Kira do their best to stay alive.
The Bone Chilling Ending
When the dust settles only Will, Kira, and another guest are left. As they walk out of the house into the backyard and view the Hollywood Hills beyond, they see hundreds of red lanterns, signifying “the deed has been done” amoungst the Invitation cult. They hear gunshots, screams, and sirens echoing through the valley.
Final Recommendations for The Invitation
This is a unique thriller that’s similar enough to the home invasion sub genre of horror that it will scratch that itch if you have it. Otherwise, If you like thrillers or movies in general, you should watch this.