Rated: R some bloody/gory, horror-style scenes. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 8, 2016 Released by: Drafthouse Films
Karyn Kusama's 'dinner party from hell' is probably one you wouldn't really want to attend, but through guilt and obligation there are some cinematic pleasures to grab onto before a more schematically refined than chillingly rendered denouement.
The Invitation has Kusama (Jennifer's Body, Girlfight) in fairly good command (at least for its first two acts) of the material she's been given. It comes from a tragedy of a severed marriage two years hence and a haunting discomfort the main character Will (Logan Marshall Green of Prometheus and Brooklyn's Finest) experiences.
The set-up has Will and new girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) welcomed by his ex Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and Michiel Huisman's David into their deluxe residence. Using Will's vantage point to accentuate what goes from uncomfortable to hysteria an apprehension is evident during a soiree. One that has friends like Sadie (Lindsay Burdge) and Pruitt (an eldritch John Carroll Lynch of Miracles From Heaven and Hot Pursuit) which might indicate that David and Eden may have an ulterior motive or faction of an agenda.
How The Invitation unfolds has its surprising unnerving bursts of energy at least on the explicit or lurid side but eventually is more by-the-numbers in how it handles deals with the harsh current complexities, notably from a saturnine end.
From a physical production standpoint given the budgetary restrictions there is a polish, especially in the lensing, interior and even sound designing (to a degree) that is inviting to absorb. An ingratiating payoff isn't awaiting even a less discerning onlooker given the approach of its latter segments especially given the committed efforts of a game cast (with Marshall Green and Carroll Lynch impressing more than their counterparts) to what could have been a really thrilling, if twisted mind-bender.