The Invitation Review
Director: Jessica M. Thompson
Streaming: Prime Video and HBO Max
Theater: Releasing on October 28th in India.
In India, The Invitation Trailer played during Black Adam Screening. After watching the trailer, I felt like this film is similar to “Ready or Not”. Before starting the movie, I checked Google and the reviews and score are below 35%. Still, I gave it a shot…. Let’s check it out….How bad it is?
After the death of her mother and having no other known relatives, Evie takes a DNA test and discovers a long-lost cousin she never knew she had. Invited by her newfound family to a lavish wedding in the English countryside, Evie’s at first seduced by the sexy aristocratic host.
However, she’s soon thrust into a nightmare of survival as she uncovers twisted secrets about her family history and the unsettling intentions behind their sinful generosity.
I’m going to write this review into two categories.
1. What I liked?
2. What I disliked?
1. What I liked:
It’s fast, it doesn’t get stuck too much in trivial world-building, and it gets to the antics very quickly to start getting into the thrills.
The Invitation has a lot of things to decipher in the short run time, but it’s always moving and seldom slowing down to get bogged in higher-order thinking. For those looking for just a way to turn off the mind, this can be a giant plus alongside the appeal of one component of the story.
It’s a beautiful world they have shot/created, in this movie. A European-centered mansion and castle that is sort of the dark version of Downton Abbey (My favorite show and film).
The rooms they play in are immaculate, both high society, but several holding darker undertones that tell a story almost better than the actual words and story itself. I highly enjoyed the realistic manner and sort of felt like a board game or mystery room feel that could have been used so well.
The Potential Story:
The story is not the worst I’ve seen and holds some elements of an engaging character. This film is a neo-gothic style drama with elements of horror and romance sprinkled in to try and live up to the stories of classic horror films.
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Paying homage to the tales it references was nice, and there were a lot of quality points they could have used to help guide this to be one of the better tales. Throw in some darker comedy like Ready or Not, and the overall feel of the movie showed there was potential.
The Lighting Effects:
A small and subtle nod to the elements, the lighting really tells much of the story and brings much of the emotion in this film.
From the opening scene, every moment has an area of lighting that sets the tone of the moment and suggests the element of the scene. Foreboding dark rooms make the moment obvious, but other elements that blend dark and light each offer a level of safety to dive into.
Now my second favorite component, the costumes, and makeup of the movie are fantastic for me given what I guess was a “lower” budget production.
The Invitation may not be dressing up the groups in superhero underwear, or the most amazing warrior costumes, but the costumes chosen really do blend the modern and traditional well.
Fantastic dresses are my favorite, the material holding a lot of design qualities that tell their own story while also really accomplishing the attitudes of the characters who wear them.
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Male characters often have the shirts found in many English tales, part class and debonair mixed with something more as the story progresses. Throw in the more “romantic” moments and the modern blend comes in to help re-establish the timelines.
And when makeup is needed for the various events that occurred, once more the effects of mimicking blood, paleness, and injuries continue to be realistic and incredible.
I can’t say much about this without giving away an obvious point. The Invitation has moments that really require certain computer animation effects, editing, and prosthetics to help accomplish the tasks at hand.
I loved it, and the sneaking subtle moments give you a taste of the big moments at the end of the movie to come. That blend of using prosthetics and the computer met the balance so many movies fail to achieve and I only wish we had more time with it.
2. What I disliked?
I got it from the trailer even though the clips did not reveal what the twist was. The movie should not be too hard to decipher what will happen as the dialogue plays out.
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The clues are handed a little too easily, the hints too obvious and of course, the subtle things sneak out a bit to reveal the big twist. Had the other elements not taken a hit because of this, or there had been more story elements, this would not have been an issue, but something was just askew that led to predictability being too much.
They dock it up as a horror film of the century, but it lacked scares for me in this film despite their best attempts. Much of this has to do with how desensitized I am to the trailer, but the elements don’t quite mix well for me to execute the full effect of the horror to be really scary.
It lacks a creepy atmosphere, the intensity of the horror is blunted by quick finishes, and the direction eventually takes it to neo-gothic style drama over anything else. Thus, with such changes in style and several other factors, the movie’s horror element is dull.
That pace might be good for getting in and out of the theater, and also trying to get to all the parts they want to talk about. However, the story that held a lot of potentials also got sideswiped a bit in the process, resulting in of course missing pieces.
The Invitation has so many components that a book form would do well to elaborate, build, and expand upon that a movie seemed to have suffered with time limits.
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And The main character Evie has a lot of potential for uncovering her past, facing her hardships, and fostering bonds, but it’s all lost to the fleeting time.
Then the mystery of the manor and trying to figure out the truth was robbed even more of the quality, each act feeling like a setup to something big and then just fizzling out. Again so much potential, but lost.
I can’t deny this, the acting does at times get to force and lose the presentation that they were doing. Primarily at the end, many actors have to transition into a different kind of acting, one that either did not get rehearsed as well as they could, or was just planned to be this extravagant in the forced gestures, acting, and screaming that comes.
I lost the class, I was seeing, and the whole conclusion seemed very dropped in a mad rush to get to the end. Some people suffered through the movie itself, Corneliussen playing her arrogance a might too strong, but it’s that ending where the cheese factor oozes out.
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An Attempt at Action:
I said earlier that the movie tries to incorporate a lot of genre elements into the mix. Well, the ending makes a break for trying to add a little excitement by converting it into an action film moment to bring about the full end.
The fight is, well it’s mediocre at best for me, fitting with the setting, but give the buildup did little to match what other movies of this genre could do.
The choreography was extremely limited, the acting forced and awkward, and the time with it was again very limited, meaning it felt like the action in a Soap Opera with slaps and screams, than actual merit.
And when the story elements drag in and the dialogue creeps in, this moment just fails outside of some sweet finishes to heighten the drama component. It wasn’t needed of this caliber, and I would have liked to see more strategy or rehearsal come in for it to be included.
The Lack of Focused Direction:
The heart of The Invitation’s problems arises in the lack of focused direction for the film and trying to do too much in such a short time. All these elements do give nods to the tropes of the horror theme they were going for, but none of them fully deliver to tie them all well.
This comes with time, focus, and in all honesty, a mini-series or book to flesh it all out in the proper details and tie-ins. Because of that, all the moments are okay and will fill the time with something, but the promise again was sullied by too much at once and becoming more of a mess that is just okay.
The Invitation Review Verdict:
The Invitation shows how ideas have an immense promise and the modern edge of retelling and combination could work if planned out right. There are so many homages and snippets of scenes that work and had me intrigued, but then get ripped away to mediocre finishes and hasty tie-ups.
What results is an average movie that is a more neo-gothic drama with some thriller twists, which should be good for a teenager-based audience. Note, there are some moments that might be harder for people to see in the form of boundary violation, torture, confinement, and some rather occult appetites that sensitive people will have.
Past that though, the chill and scare factor is minimal and in all honesty quite boring to watch given what the trailers promised.
Predictable plots, messy editing, rushed story elements, and other hasty decisions just robbed the full splendor this movie could have been. I can’t say this one is a theater visit outside the aesthetics, and would rather watch it at home instead.