31 in 31 – “The Invitation”

“Who’s that?”

Story: Two years ago, Will’s young son died. Shortly after, his wife left him for another man. But now, out of the blue, Will’s ex and her new hubby send an extremely beautiful formal written invitation to Will and his new girlfriend. Come to dinner, and catch up? All his old friends will be there. Sounds legit.

Scares: TONS of chills and suspense.

Splat factor: Plenty. But fair to middling compared to slasher flicks.

Closing scene “shocker”?: Yes! But it’s not a gotcha.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: Original.

Trick or Treat?: Ever wonder what would happen if Crazy Ralph could keep his shit together long enough to be the star of a horror movie? Well, here you go. Will is that Crazy Ralph, a Cassandra who knows damn well something’s up, because he’s got two years of distance from his ex and his former friends. But do his friends listen? NOPE.

This film is unsettling in a bone-deep way I haven’t felt since Rosemary’s Baby, and to a lesser extent (due to its fish-out-of-water premise), Midsommar. The upper-middle class setting should lull viewers into a cozy certainty of safety, but director Karen Kusama uses those trappings – big house, an expensive meal, gated driveways – to add a chill to the already frosty story. As Will slowly goes from one side of the freaked-out pendulum to the other, his uncertainty amid everyone else’s calm raises the tension, and delves deeply into his unresolved grief.

I really wanted to read the wiki and see how things ended… But then I decided to sink into the disquiet. I’m very glad I did. This slow burn stunner of a film is worth the unease I so often avoid. Why? Because in addition to a careful study of how we as human beings process grief, this film asks us to look at how we react to the unusual and off-putting. This film left me thinking about how many times I’ve never said anything in awkward situations, just to keep the peace. We all do that, and for punching viewers the gut with the idea that we all could be one gathering away from disaster by simply going along to get along, Invitation is a compelling watch.

Plus, the ending is just as satisfyingly creepy as the story preceeding it. Just stay focused on the screen instead of clearing your popcorn tubs away, and you’ll be rewarded with a final excellent shudder.

Score: 5 out of 5 pumpkins. I want to give it 4.5 because of the rookie mistakes some characters make during this story… But then I realized I’d grown to give enough of a shit about them to worry if they’d live or die. So a perfect score ’tis.

About Denise

Professional nerd. Lover of licorice.
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