The Invitation

You’ll never guess who’s coming to dinner.

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) drives new girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) up through the Hollywood Hills to the mansion of his former wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard), who has invited them for dinner. Having disappeared for two years after the death of their son, Eden and her new partner David (Michiel Huisman from Game of Thrones) are keen to reintroduce themselves to their old friendship circle after becoming part of a new movement (read cult) which they want to tell everyone about over nibbles.

Driving through the hills, Will accidently rams into a coyote, proceeding to put the creature out of its misery and alleviate its suffering. The both merciful and brutal act expertly sets the tone for an unsettling, engrossing horror film.

Immediately evoking memories of The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby, the audience sees much of the film from Will’s point of view, sharing his feelings of insecurity and unease that something is just not right about a dinner party where all the doors are locked from the inside and the hosts seem determined above all else to project an image of calm. Something’s wrong, but we don’t know what; Will’s slow walks through his old house and tense interactions with the others Eden brought home from the movement (John Carroll Lynch and Lindsay Burge) proving much more unnerving than stock-standard, traditional blood and gore.

The film, a mix of both B-grade and slightly more polished horror, in spite of its glossy feel gives the impression that it could all have been done with a handheld and a bucket of blood; the welcome twist in the film’s final moments among other stand-outs reviving memories of famous slasher-anthologies and economical fright-fests. There is no shortage of stilted dialogue to establish character motivations or back-story; all taking place within the confined, bottle setting, traditional for lower-budget fanfare.

The Invitation has many of the unsettling, familiar hallmarks of a B-grade horror film that would typically come with a shoe-string budget, yet the finished product is an adept frightener whose higher production values did not come at the expense of its eerie B-grade feel.

A consistently frightening and unnerving piece of the Sydney Film Festival’s ‘Freak Me Out’ showcase, The Invitation is a very welcome entry in the best tradition of bottle horror.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

On ArtsHub