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The Invitation

The Invitation
The Invitation

Format: Cinema

Seen at LFF 2015

Director: Karyn Kusama

Writers: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi

Cast: Michiel Huisman, Logan Marshall-Green, John Carroll Lynch

USA 2015

97 mins

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and Eden (Tammy Blanchard) split up two years ago after a tragic accident drove them apart. Now he and his new girlfriend are invited to a dinner party in Los Angeles with Eden, her new partner David (Michiel Huisman) and a handful of old friends, at their old house in the hills. The evening’s festivities were, perhaps inevitably going to be a trifle strained, but from the moment Will enters the house he senses that something is a little…off. Maybe it’s the two new friends of Eden and David‘s, who seem overly familiar and willing to get intimate, maybe it’s the guest that persistently fails to show up. Maybe it’s Eden herself, with her blissed out smile and her claims to have banished pain from her life. It could be just his grief, and his resentment of her happiness blossoming into paranoia, but something is…off. And as the night wears on his certainty that the hosts have a hidden agenda grows, something more sinister than swinging or scientology…

A masterclass in sustained unease, The Invitation had me more agreeably creeped out than any film in recent memory. The prevalence of ‘I appreciate your honesty’ L.A. therapy speak alone gave me the terrors. Add that to the accretion of unsettling details and the claustrophobic, chamber piece setting and your brain is screaming; ‘Run! Get the hell out of there!’ at the guests before the first 40 minutes are up. But the genius of the construction is that there’s nothing specific that Will can point to to justify his fears. Or rather, the bar for committing the social transgression of telling the hosts to go fuck themselves has not yet been met, especially after they’ve broken out the ’8-million dollar wine’. And that moment remains elusive. Until….

Performances are all excellent, especially Tammy Blanchard, whose Eden is all tactile gestures and fragile positivity. The camerawork is fluid and unfussy with a nice line in unbalanced compositions, and the focus is on telling body language and expression and well edited reaction shots. I love how the outwardly desirable house becomes a scarily unreadable beige and brown prison. And I love how it never lets you off the hook until the final payoff. A proper skincrawler.

This review is part of our LFF 2015 coverage.

Mark Stafford