From the outset, The Invitation grabs hold of your nerves and yanks at them, building layer upon layer of tension and paranoia until it reaches breaking point. We follow Will (Logan Marshall-Green) who has received an invitation from his ex-wife and her new partner to attend a lavish dinner party, designed to reunite an old friendship group who haven’t been in touch for a few years. Returning to the home he used to live in, Will is immediately on his guard, and as the evening becomes increasingly claustrophobic the film brilliantly plays on our insecurity as viewers, asking us whether the uneasy viewpoint we share with Will is a result of his troubled relationship with the house and people around him, or whether there is indeed something more sinister going on.
Often the moments which make us uneasy in the film are things we have seen a thousand times before in genre films, all the doors to the house being locked behind the guests, for example. However, the film couches these moments in such a believable sense of reality that we do start to question whether we are overreading these warning signs. The film uses that inbuilt knowledge we have as film fans against us, aligning us with the protagonist’s battle between trusting his gut instincts and being reluctant to allow a possible hyperactive sense of paranoia derail a long-awaited reunion of old friends. The Invitation presents us with an acutely observed example of societal conventions triumphing over the primal instinct of a fight or flight response.
If I were to be nit-picky, I would suggest that the runtime could have been tightened up a little, and there are a couple of plot contrivances here which are just a little too convenient. However, these are not film breaking issues, they do not halt the ever-rising tension nor detract from the final payoff. The Invitation is a stylishly shot thriller which boasts some fine performances and an excruciating tension build. It’s one of the most effective thrillers in years.
The Invitation is available on Blu-Ray from the 4th November.