As M. Night Shyamalan finally learned, not every movie needs to end with a twist. Then there are movies that are crying out for an unexpected turn of events, just some kind of curve ball to change an otherwise mundane plot into something more. The Invitation is exactly that kind of film, it did very little that surprised me but that’s not saying that everything it did was bad.
Will drives with his new girlfriend Kira to the Hollywood Hills home of his ex-wife Eden, who is hosting a dinner party with her new husband David. Will and Eden divorced while trying to cope with their young son Ty’s accidental death. Eden met David at a grief support group, and their party will be the first time any of their friends have seen the couple in over two years.
Throughout the evening, Will wanders his former home alone and relives memories related to Ty’s death, including Eden’s attempted suicide. In the kitchen, Will witnesses Eden slap Ben when he makes a joke about her New Age ideas on expelling pain. Eden and David’s mysterious friend Pruitt arrives.
David and Eden tell their guests about a group they joined along with Pruitt and Sadie called “The Invitation” to work through grief using spiritual philosophy. David shows everyone a video in which group leader Dr. Joseph comforts a terminally ill woman as she takes her last breaths.
During dinner, Will internally reflects on Ty’s death. While walking through a hallway, Will sees Sadie make odd faces into a mirror, and they have a strange poolside conversation. Will has a separate discussion with Tommy about the odd atmosphere in the house. Will finally gets a cell phone signal and finds a voice mail from Choi indicating that he was at Eden and David’s doorstep before the other guests. Presuming that David and Eden must have done something to Choi, Will publicly confronts the couple about their apparent cult brainwashing. Choi enters unexpectedly, explaining that he was called away by work. Will is embarrassed, but the others assume his residual grief over Ty’s death is causing Will to behave irrationally.
The entire time I was watching this movie, I kept repeating to myself that I really hope there is more to the film than what I expected. It seems painfully obvious that Eden & David have joined a cult, been brainwashed and fully intend on murdering the other guests at the dinner party. I was surprised to find that this is exactly what happens, without any twists or turns or anything. As soon as I had seen the scene with the video on the laptop I knew exactly where it was going. Now, you could put this down to the fact that I have seen a huge amount of horror movies but I really do think even casual movie-goers could see this coming.
As the movie progresses, Will becomes more and more paranoid about the situation and this is definitely an element that the film nails. As the viewer you will find yourself feeling the paranoia that Will feels. He only acts in ways that any rational human being would which is refreshing. You feel his grief through an excellent performance from Logan-Marshall Green which helps you see things from the opposing prospective.
It makes you think and question the situation which should be commended but it played out exactly as expected which is a huge shame. It all goes down in dramatic fashion; you imagine yourself in that type of situation and what you might do to survive.
I had an idea in which Will simply was ridiculously paranoid about the situation in the exact way the movie portrays it. Instead, he is driven to breaking point and suddenly party members begin to be murdered which raises the tension and paranoia to the edge. As the viewer you think it’s the cult members but instead it was actually Will all along who was killing everyone without any memory of doing so. I just felt that it needed something more but instead it ended, leaving me feeling it was simply unimaginative even if the very end has a nice touch but it’s too little too late in my opinion.
The Invitation had potential due to some seriously great acting and the impressive levels of tension and paranoia it creates within the viewer. Sadly, it’s quite possibly one of the most predictable pieces of film making that I have ever seen and for that it cannot be forgiven.