Two years after a tragedy tore apart their marriage, Will (Logan Marshall-Green) returns to the family home in the Los Angeles hills with his new partner, Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), after receiving an invite from his ex, Eden (Tammy Blanchard) to attend a close friends reunion. During the course of evening, Will begins to struggle with his demons arising from being back, while sensing all is not right with Eden and her new partner, David (Michiel Huisman), who have their own way of with coping with grief.
Kusama keeps all guessing as to proceedings in her new thriller, swinging between us questioning Will’s sanity and that of his hosts’. She just about manages to keep the suspense brewing in the murky-lit nooks and crannies of the LA pad, even though things progress a little slowly at times during the 97 minutes, as the guests get more woozy on expensive wine.
The setting is old school (the stunningly stylish, idyllic location), as are the bevy of beautiful friends/victims on offer. It seems we just can’t get enough of watching attractive folk becoming prey to the unknown. The question here is what is their apparent fate? In fact, the ‘knowing’ looks between parties and general ‘spaced out’ weirdness begin to have comedic value if it isn’t for Will’s sober hold on the situation. The end result is predictable once all is revealed roughly mid-way through.
The cast headed by a Shoreditch-bearded Marshall-Green as Will do a reasonable job of the unsettling material in what would work better as a play. Kusama and co-writers Phil Hay (also producer) and Matt Manfredi demonstrate their apparent devilish delight at keeping all guessing, throwing in red herrings in gleeful fashion and dispensing with the guests in various ways. They try to make things different from the average thriller by placing flashbacks to happier times that trigger genuine moments of sadness, even for the more stoic among us. However, none of the aforementioned is new, just entertaining.
The Invitation is full of thriller clichés but neatly and consistently builds the paranoia and has an intriguing premise as the catalyst for this, which the filmmakers put to good use. It begs the question just how much more compelling it could have been in a less commercialised and more indie affair.