Don’t Pass on The Invitation (2022) Sony Sent You for Fun, Gothic Horror Romance
Title: The Invitation
First Non-Festival Release: August 24, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Jessica M. Thompson
Writer: Blair Butler
Runtime: 105 Minutes
Starring: Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
After working an exclusive event for her company’s swanky clientele, Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) scores a leftover goodie basket complete with wine and a high-tech DNA test. With both of her parents gone and the struggles of living in New York City putting extra pressure on her lately, Evie decides to give it a go to find some sort of connection. Weeks later she finds herself connecting with Oliver (Hugh Skinner), a distant cousin from England who comes from a wealthy real estate family. They hit it off so well that Oliver invites Evie to an upcoming wedding. Her initial hesitance at the cost is calmed when he offers to pay for everything, as the family is dying to see her, and she finds herself on a flight soon enough.
The Invitation is a fun time for those who accept that it will not be thoroughbred fare in terms of story, thrills, and gore.
What makes The Invitation better than what some let on is its commitment to not taking itself seriously. It is a deeply campy movie at heart and plays with the tropes most associated with Victorian period horror, just with a modern twist. It’s silly and convenient in most of its storytelling decisions, but it works because there isn’t a desire to go beyond that. When Evie meets Walt (Thomas Doherty), she finds herself infatuated with his charms and eager to prove herself to her newfound family. The story waxes into the ridiculous similarly to the most indulgent fanfiction, but it still maintains its appeal for its target demographics.
The allure of wealth and proximity to privilege is embodied in Walt’s offer to Evie. Life with him means betraying everything she believes in but also eliminates the constant need for struggle and the yearning for family that eats at her. Evie has a difficult choice to face. It’s important to note that this offer is extended to three women who all react differently. Viktoria is clearly jaded after living for five hundred years not feeling enough for Walt yet remains fiercely loyal after all this time. Lucy is optimistic, if a bit naïve for thinking that everything will be alright once Evie joins them. Evie refuses to bend her morality for a man who hasn’t proved to be worthy of her love.
Strong lead casting grounds The Invitation as both a simmering pseudo-romance and dark fantasy horror film. Nathalie Emmanuel brings poise and grit to the skeptical Evie. Her care of others is genuine and consistent throughout the narrative, and is not merely a plot device to show how “different” she is from those that choose to blindly let evil cultivate. Thomas Doherty oozes charm and seduction. He is the perfect embodiment of temptation in the form of stability and excitement. Small things like the twitch of his smile or a flared eye roll bring out the true nature of his character while still sizzling with sex appeal in a realistic manner.
While the set and costume design are immaculate, The Invitation is disappointing in terms of its cinematography. For what is billed as a dark gothic romance, there isn’t much meat in the way it is filmed. It must be reiterated that the design is still fantastic. Between the emphasis on art, the detail-rich mansion, and Evie’s stunning red dress, The Invitation is wrapped in its own unique style that unfortunately doesn’t match its static delivery.
Is The Invitation a good film? It’s hard to say. Is it a an entertaining one? Absolutely. Fans of dark romantic literature and campy gothic tales will find much to adore in this beautifully set up yet paired down horror film. Suffering from its marketing which directs the audience to expect a very different film, The Invitation is less concerned about subverting tropes and delivering high octane comedy than it is with creating rich atmosphere and heart aching moments of lust. There isn’t anything you haven’t seen before in the film and it is definitely hurt by its PG-13 rating, but if expectations are appropriately adjusted for its premise and goal, it is enjoyable enough. If you like fun, brainless popcorn entertainment, I encourage you to accept The Invitation at your earliest convenience.
Overall Score? 6/10