Invitation, The: Expertly Directed Psychological Thriller by Karyn (Girlfight) Kusama

The best news about the new indie The Invitation is not that it’s an effectively executed mystery thriller, but that it offers an opportunity for the gifted writer-director Karyn Kusama to practice her métier and show her capability.

In 2000, Kusama made a splash with her directing debut, Girlfight, starring the then unknown, Michelle Rodriguez, which won a top award at the Sundance Film Fest.  Unfortunately, her second film, Jennifer’s Body (from a scenario by Diablo Cody), was an artistic and commercial flop–a sophomore jinx.

Though a taut psychological thrille,  The Invitation is not a particularly deep tale—its narrative is too simple—but the movie benefits from Kusama’s skills in building sustained tension for two reels and then delivering a sinister climax that offers dramatic and emotional payoff.

Largely contained within a confined setting, the text revolves around two couples. Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend show up at a dinner party given his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband, David (Michiel Huisman)

The pair’s tragic past continues to haunt them in the present. Amidst Eden’s suspicious behavior and her mysterious house guests, Will gradually becomes paranoid, suspecting that behind the seemingly gracious invitation there is another scary and threatening agenda.

Unfolding over one long and dark evening in the Hollywood Hills, the noirish tale, co-written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, blends mystery, horror, and paranoia to the point where it is unclear which threats are real and which are imagined.

The final shot, which cannot be described here, is so chilling that it’s bound to linger in your memory long after the viewing experience.

Credits

Directed by Karyn Kusama

Script: Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi

Release date: April 8, 2016

Running time: 100 Minutes