Sometimes movies blow me away from the very first viewing. On the other hand, there are other movies that disappointed me the first time, but still deserve a second look. The 2015 film The Invitation is one of these. The movie had gotten accolades when it was released, but when I saw it back then, I found it underwhelming. Luckily, I was prompted by one of my favorite podcasts, Faculty of Horror, to give it a second chance.
The Invitation takes place on a single night. Will and his girlfriend are invited to a dinner party hosted by Will’s ex-wife Eden and her new husband David. What begins as a cozy gathering of friends turns into a recruitment session for a cult called ‘The Invitation’. As the hosts press their friends to join, one guest – a stranger within the group – takes matters into his own hands, and the simple gathering turns deadly.
I think the reason I wasn’t impressed with the first viewing of this movie was the pacing. It is a very slow-moving film, especially for horror. The story builds gradually, with a lot of discussion about grief and longing. Will and his ex-wife lost a child, and both of them are trying to cope with life. In fact, the entire movie is a discussion on the pain of grief and the lengths people will go to survive this pain.
If not for the ending (which is brutal), this could be a straight-up, slice-of-life drama. Looking back, I should have accepted the movie on its own terms rather than project my expectations onto it. Part of the reason I felt cheated after watching it was because of the hype surrounding it and my own ideas of what horror should be. I had expected a slasher and a night of terror. What I got was a strange game called ‘I want’ and a bottle of three-million dollar wine.
On the second viewing, one of the things that struck me was that there wasn’t a ‘bad guy’ in the film. Yes, some characters were willing to take the cult’s views to the extreme. However, it seems that Eden and her husband (along with the creepy and mysterious Pruitt) completely believe that what they are doing is right. In particular, Eden wants only to end Will’s pain. The cult members have bought into the cult so much that they’ll do anything to convert their friends.
I won’t say that The Invitation is my favorite horror movie. It’s not even in the top ten. However, I did appreciate it after watching it a second time. If you’re interested in watching a movie about friendship and angst with a little horror sprinkled in at the end, I suggest you watch this one.