“Don’t fuck this up for all of us, dear.”
Story: Evie is a talented
pottery ceramics artist, but she’s barely scraping by after her mother’s death several months ago. So when her friend nabs her a free DNA test swag bag from their latest catering gig? Evie figures why not give it a whirl. Bingo – a second cousin, pops up almost immediately. They meet, as he’s in NYC, and before you know it, Evie is headed to an all-expenses paid vacay in the English countryside. Seems there’s an ultra-posh wedding this weekend, and what better time to meet the whole fam? But things start feeling creepy, and it’s not just the super-Gothic décor ’round the place. At least “call me Walt”, the owner of the FREAKING CASTLE the wedding is to be held, is smoking hot, and seems to be really into Evie. So that’s a plus, right? Right?
Genre I’d put it in: 21st Century Spins On Classics
Release Date: 2022
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the characters from Dracula, by Bram Stoker. With a little bit of Ready or Not and Rebecca, for good measure.
Gotta say: Don’t listen to the haters. Invitation is an absolute blast, as long as you keep your expectations where they should be. And where they should be is firmly in the “over-the-top horror goodness” camp. Because oh honey, this film is campy, and the whole cast and crew knows it. So buckle up buttercup, and enjoy the fun.
First off, there’s a lot of girl power on display here, even though this is straight-up Gothic horror goodness. Written and directed by women – fellow G4 stans will recognize screenwriter Blair Butler’s name, and her lightly humorous touch with the proceedings belies her comedy origins – I got serious Rebecca and Jane Eyre vibes once things really started to get going. A naïve woman out of her depth goes to a castle and falls head over heels for the lord of the manor? Gimme all of that, please and thank you. Butler peppers the dialogue and places with obvious shout-outs to Stoker’s novel, from (New) Carfax Abbey to Lucy, Mina, and the gang. Is it heavy-handed. Of course it is. Camp gloriousness!
The sublime campiness is amped up by the art direction, costuming…okay, the whole look and feel of the film, which evokes a blend of modern sensibilities with ancient, rotted roots. Serious Crimson Peak vibes, with a dash of ’99’s The Haunting for good measure. (I swear I’ve seen that staircase before, though I know movies about the crazy rich do love them some double staircases.) I especially enjoyed how costuming hints at several characters’ backstories, and the way the actors move through the sets, as if they’re in a 1930s piece that just happens to be filmed in HD. Heck, I’m still lusting after Evie’s entire artsy-chic wardrobe, from her earrings to the tips of her shoes. Speaking of Evie, Nathalie Emmanuel has remarkable onscreen romantic chemistry with Thomas Doherty’s Walt. The surprise and delight in each other – at least at first – shines off of the screen.
But naturally, things go to hell. Quite literally. The climax is an absolute blast, even though you can figure out exactly what’s coming next at every turn. My only peeve? When Evie and Walt face off, the makeup FX on Walt, coupled with the roaring fire backdrop, had me wondering exactly who she was speaking to. Then things play out, and I was all “oh cool. That was Walt. Groovy.” There’s a final scene that jumps to two weeks later, which harks back to films like Get Out, and could be seen as either sequel bait, or a fun bit of “and then…” to end things on. Bonus? The end credits music is Cruel Youth/Teddy Sinclair’s “Mr. Badman”, a fantastic reggae-flavored electro-bop to end things on a high note.
So? Curious? Love camp, and glorious Gothic settings? Get thee to the theater then. You can thank me later.
#Protip: Yep, shrikes do impale their prey…but only because their talons aren’t strong enough to get a good solid hold while dinner is served. So be nice to these cute little endangered birds y’all. Just a thought.