The Invitation (2016)

invitation2016I will say for the record to avoid any and all spoilers about “The Invitation,” because Karyn Kusama’s film is a masterpiece that deserves an audience with the ability to soak in the full weight of the experience. Kusama’s “The Invitation” is one of the most competently made and mesmerizing horror thrillers I’ve seen so far this year. It’s a haunting and disturbing look at the unbearable pain of grief, and how so many are incapable of dealing with it that it allows for a predator to prey on them without fail.

I loved every minute of “The Invitation” as it sets down on a generation of individuals without the necessary tools to confront pain and conflict, and thus find an easy exit at every turn. “The Invitation” is also a wonderful story with the subtext about how modern civilization has centered around the easy fixes and quick solutions, oblivious to consequence and even aftermath. In “The Invitation,” we meet Will, a man who has gotten over a major hump in his life and has managed to pick himself up from the dirt after a horrific loss. With the help of his girlfriend Kira, he manages to confront pain in his life; he is more than surprised when he’s invited by his ex-wife and her new husband Dave to attend a dinner party at their hill top house. Despite the awkwardness of re-uniting with his ex-wife, Will is shocked to learn that after a two year absence, all of his friends have gathered to attend the part.

Furthermore, he’s taken aback that his ex wife Eden has all but come to terms with their past and seems unusually serene and pleasant. Despite being lulled in to the casual circumstances of drinks and casual conversation, Will begins to notice something isn’t quite as it seems, especially with Eden and Dave’s somewhat erratic party guest Sadie. With one guest not quite on time, and a somewhat enigmatic guest named Pruitt who’s also been invited to join the party, Will begins to suspect something is awry. Kusama builds on our expectations and perceptions of weird and out of the ordinary with a slowly mounting and brutally tense horror thriller that leads in to an explosion that will keep audiences questioning even themselves.

Even once the Kusama’s narrative has fully unfolded, “The Invitation” preys on audience’s perceptions of what sanity and grief and never shies away from the disastrous repercussions of tragedy and death. Kusama assembles a wonderful collective of character actors to drive the narrative home, including Tammy Blanchard, Lindsay Burge, and Michiel Huisman. The most haunting performances though comes from Logan Marshall Green, who is exceptional as the unhinged Will who has a clear view of his surroundings and is never quite convinced if what is unfolding throughout the night is indicative of something sinister, or signs that the final straws of his sanity have all but broken.

Will is a man who doesn’t trust himself, and can never be sure if he should assume what he’s witnessing is his instincts warning him of something dire or if he’s projecting something that may amount to violence. There’s also the remarkable John Carroll Lynch who is menacing as he mysterious Pruitt, who morphs constantly during the film leaving the audience wholly unsure toward his own personal motives. “The Invitation” is an absolute masterwork mixing horror, mystery, and drama, in to one truly haunting piece of art that will linger long after it’s ended.

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