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The Invitation [2016]: An unsettling housebound thriller!

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“Pain is optional.”

The Invitation

Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation invests you into a housebound scarce which builds up exponentially until the reveal of the final image. It’s one of those films that not only plays with one of it’s character’s head but  it also occasionally underplays and overplays just to keep you bewildered. The greatest achievement of The Invitation is how it makes all the characters seem more human than they actually are. Something that makes you doubt each one of them and none of them at the same time.

The film revolves around a dinner party, cum-reunion organised by Eden (Tammy Blanchard), Will’s (Logan Marshall-Green) ex-wife. Will and his new-girlfriend are already in a tense mood as they recede  to the Hollywood hills, right into Will’s old home. Reunions with old friends are usually a facade, where old memories run up to the surface and awkward conversation result to grimmer truths but Kusama’s film takes the other way around. Eden and her new partner David (Michiel Huisman) seem weirdly off from the onset. But Kusama so cleverly coats these online cult-followers that, even when you know that either of the party is going to snap out of their fake overviews you never really understand when, how and why. To top that off, she cuts to Eden and Will’s life; the happy times, the sad times and the grim times filling up both of their respective empty mugs with doubt, angst and hallucinating rage.

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While Eden & David seem weirdly creepy with their talks about letting oneself grow out of their shell of grief and sadness, Will, who is supposedly our point of view suffers from self-doubt, jealously & overthinking over minimal changes in staging. The way his paranoia pushes the tension up and down the house, when the people sit down in circles and play “I want” is often unsettling and confusing. David, Eden and their two friends also seem to be the culprits every now and then. However, the doubt in the viewers mind goes back and forth and mostly the results are completely accurate. Which is the only drawback of this slow-burning thriller. The other characters in The Invitation are not fleshed out well, which leads to predictable results quite often.

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There is so much to like about this film but the way it undergoes the usual genre trapping is heartbreaking to watch. There are times in the film when you are not absolutely sure what will happen next but when it does, you are not completely surprised. But there is also a unique and absolutely terrifying message that the film gives. It has been often misunderstood that people stand together in grief. What’s not being told thus far is the way grief haunts people into becoming the polar opposite of what they wished to be. In Kusama film we see people reacting to each others words with utter calmness. But isn’t the earth still just before its shattered by an earthquake? The Invitation hides most of it’s characters behind mysterious shadows which don’t peel off layer by layer but are slowly scratched until they are completely ripped-off from their existence.

★★★

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