Review: 'The Invitation' [Fantasia Festival 2015]

Sometimes, politeness can be destructive. If you see someone who is clearly up to no good and nobody else is saying anything about it, it’s your responsibility to speak your mind and, at the very least, demand an explanation. But if you’re so convinced someone is up to no good that you take it upon yourself to intervene, whether by harassing them for answers or accosting them physically, you’d damn well better be right.

From the outset, it seems something odd is going on at the home of David (Michiel Huisman) and Eden (Tammy Blanchard). After disappearing for two years without a word, they’ve returned out of the blue and invited their friends to a dinner party. Among those invited is Will (Logan Marshall-Green), who was married to Eden until tragedy fractured their relationship and forced them apart.

Expensive wines are served, and good food is enjoyed by all. But some things just aren’t adding up. One of the invited guests doesn’t arrive. The doors are all locked, and the windows barred. Two strangers (John Carroll Lynch and Lindsay Burdge) are in attendance, and seem a little bit off. Eden, too, isn’t quite herself. And then we learn that Eden and David’s time away was spent with “The Invitation,” a new religious movement that some are calling a cult.

It takes little time for Will’s suspicions to establish him as an opposing element at the party. Eden and David’s kindness and welcoming are offset by Will’s abrasive manner and endless inquisition of their motives for inviting them all to dinner. He gets more and more erratic, to the point that the potential for him to be a danger is at least equal to the hosts.

The sound editing is used to particularly great effect in this film. Every action is exaggerated, and minor things like running water become a pounding auditory force akin to an enormous waterfall. Combined with the lockdown of the house, it creates an uncomfortable claustrophobia and the feeling that some great danger is lurking around every corner.

The result is that we don’t know. Until the very end, we have no idea who, if anyone, is going to snap. Everything in the film positions itself for some climactic reveal, but it is so deliciously slow in its build, so deliberate and patient, that eventually it clicks that, maybe, this film will make itself an outlier in the genre. Maybe there will be no psychotic break.

The Invitation doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but not everything has to. This is a very well-made thriller that will keep you guessing the whole way through, and is sure to leave you squirrelly by the time the credits roll.