Fucking hell mate, I’m not coming around to yours for dinner again.
I can’t really go into the reasons why – mainly because it’ll end up spoiling The Invitation, a tremendously taught new horror/thriller from Karyn Kusama – but suffice to say that when you ask me to your next Gammon of Thones Night (we eat gammon, we watch Game of Thrones) I will not be attending. In fact I’ll also buy an expensive last-minute plane ticket to somewhere very remote so I have a legitimate reason for not coming and I will hopefully never see your face again.
Yes, The Invitation has ruined dinner parties, just like It Follows ruined having sex with men and The Witch ruined living in the 1600s. Although for some of you who have found yourselves dispassionately caught in the habit of regularly hanging out with old school friends purely out of habit, you may be glad of the excuse.
The set-up is simple, Will and his new girlfriend Kira are invited to attend a dinner party with a group of friends they haven’t seen for two years. The hosts of the party are – and this is where it gets emotionally complex – Will’s ex-wife Eden and her irritatingly charismatic new husband David – and here’s where it gets even more emotionally complex to the point where you think “fucking hell Will and Kira why are you even going to this party you crazy bastards?” – Will and Eden divorced after the death of their five year-old son, which happened at the very house they’re hosting this gathering in AND Eden met her new husband at a grief support group while she was still married to Will. None of the other invitees have seen anyone since this all happened.
Now this all sounds breathlessly complicated and overwrought, like you’re walking in on the ninth episode of a particularly cheerless HBO drama, but it’s a testament to Girlfight director’s Karyn Kusama delicate handling of the material that all of this information is dispensed as subtly and tantalisingly as possible.
And here’s the other thing about The Invitation (and this may sound like a joke as the movie is set in a single location with a limited cast) it’s one of the most taught, edge-of-you-seat, hand-raised-to-your-mouth thrillers you’ll ever watch.
I’m going to try and dance around this as carefully as possible as The Invitation is a movie you don’t want ruined before you see it. It’s not that it lives or dies purely on its twists – there’s so much other good stuff to enjoy here – but the way The Invitation plays its rhythmic game of ‘tension and release’ is so carefully orchestrated you’ll want to enjoy it as purely as possible.
The film never leaves Will’s side, so as he walks around the house and as he interacts with the friends he hasn’t seen for years, your suspicions around the motivation for Eden and David’s get-together are aroused concurrently with his, but you also assume, much like the other guests, that he’s just being paranoid. And it’s this tension between you and Will, Will and the guests, and the film itself with you the viewer, that makes it such a nerve-wracking experience and by Christ when the end comes, it truly delivers on all levels. The film began with Will accidentally hitting a coyote with his car and then having to end its suffering with a tyre iron. It’s an unsettling start, portraying how violence and suffering can enter the mundanity of everyday life so unexpectedly, but it sets up the tone of the film perfectly and by the end you realise that ultimately The Invitation is about dealing with pain.
Despite all of what I’ve described above, I still haven’t actually told you what is really going on, and hopefully you’ll thank me for that. I can’t recommend The Invitation highly enough. In fact, just watch it right now before anyone else can spoil it for you. Hell, I’ve even embedded a link for you right here…
The Invitation doesn’t have a UK release date yet, but if there’s one good thing the internet has given us, it’s the erosion of market-specific release dates and home-video release windows. So there you go, click on the above link, pay a few quid, and watch what I am prematurely, but very confidently, calling my favourite film of 2016.