‘The Invitation’ Movie Review
The Invitation is the story of a woman named Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) who, despite having no close relations near her, finds out that she has family in England she never knew about. When her cousin Oliver Alexander (Hugh Skinner) invites her to a family reunion, she meets wealthy young bachelor Walter Deville (Thomas Doherty) and sparks start flying. But creepy things start happening, and the dark secrets of the Alexander family begin to be revealed.
The trailers clearly revealed the “twist” about the movie’s villains, but I’m gonna wait until the end of this review to address it, just in case anyone would rather leave it unspoiled (that said, it’s also incredibly obvious). The Invitation isn’t especially good, but I do have to point out some very strong positives. For one, the score really stuck out to me. It was composed by Dara Taylor, and its hybridization of foreboding strings and moody synthwave is actually evocative of John Carpenter at times. I love scoring like this, and it really adds to the atmosphere, even when it’s otherwise lackluster.
I have to say, this cast is surprisingly exceptional. Nathalie Emmanuel makes an incredibly likable lead, and she’s proven that she’s capable of headlining a movie multiple times. She also has pretty solid chemistry with Thomas Doherty, who is also outstanding. I really wish I could have seen the two of them work with better material, because I found their interactions very enjoyable. Another standout performance comes from Sean Pertwee as the manservant Mr. Fields (his name is yet another nod towards the eventual big reveal). He’s a very underappreciated actor, and I found him to be quite compelling here. His character feels straight out of a Hammer movie, an aesthetic this film seems to be attempting to evoke. Unfortunately, it just falls short, but that is in no way a fault of the cast. They’re honestly the best thing about The Invitation.
Far too much of this film is just visually poor. Despite having some pretty great sets, the lighting is terrible, and a lot of it is just plain unappealing. In a lot of the more action-focused moments, I literally couldn’t tell what was happening, because not only could I barely see anything, but the movie falls victim to the unfortunate trend of mistaking chaotic editing for genuine intensity. This ultimately inhibited any sort of atmosphere that might have been established. The film also feels very stunted by its PG-13 rating. There are multiple times in which the camera has to cut away from what could have been an effectively gruesome moment, but instead we’re left with very little payoff. There’s also one scene in which a character is nude, and the camera has to awkwardly dance around her in order to avoid showing her naked body. It’s almost reminiscent of a certain gag from Austin Powers, only this wasn’t intended to be funny. It’s just silly and ill-advised.
The Invitation is a textbook example of a great cast being stranded with mediocre material. Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, and Sean Pertwee are all in top form here, but the lack of any real atmosphere or mystery leave the audience with nothing but clichés and pulled punches.
If you happened to see the second trailer for The Invitation, you know that the big reveal is that Walter Deville is a vampire. Even if you didn’t catch that one trailer, the film doesn’t hide it particularly well. Right off the bat (pun), the lavish estate where most of the movie takes place is called New Carfax, which if you’re familiar with Dracula, is a dead giveaway (another pun). The same goes for the butler being named Mr. Fields. I’m not sure if the reveal was supposed to be a surprise to the audience or just the main character, but it was honestly a relief when they finally admitted what we could all tell from the very beginning.
About the Creator
I’m an actor and director of stage and screen. But I also dabble in standup, and on this site, horror movie criticism. I’m just a guy who loves horror movies, and I like to share that love with the world.
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