THE INVITATION **** USA 2015 Dir: Karyn Kusama. 101 mins
Kusama’s first film since JENNIFER’S BODY in 2009, this one-location thriller sees Logan Marshall-Green and girlfriend Emayatzy Corinealdi heading to an L.A. party hosted by his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard) at their old marital house – two years after his marriage and life fell apart following a tragedy. The signs aren’t good: familiar horror movie harbingers of impending doom include coyote road kill, no cell phone reception and whisperings of recent nearby home invasions. A couple of weird guests (“They’re a little Mansony”), and details of Blanchard’s involvement in a Mexico-based cult aimed at the grief-stricken, suggest something sinister lurking beyond all the ridiculously expensive wine.
The script tends to telegraph its climactic destination and a couple of key character names are a little on the nose (“Sadie”, “Eden”), but this impressively contained thriller ratchets up a sense of escalating unease via subtly uncomfortable character interactions and gradually unravelling agendas. Fragmented flashbacks fill in the backstory and Marshall-Green (later the star of Leigh Whannell’s awesome UPGRADE) delivers a sympathetic portrait of a character who has been biding time, waiting to die since a world-changing personal loss. Kusama offers a glimpse into one possible eventuality for a modern world full of people desperately seeking comfort and enlightenment…and signs off with a genuinely eerie revelation suggesting all of this is just a tiny part of a much larger picture.
Review by Steven West