In The Invitation, New Yorker Evie, is at a crossroads in life. Her mother has recently passed away, her day job offers little in the way of financial security, and her passion for art presents few opportunities.
In her own words she is ‘treading water’ and with no family to turn to, life just ticks along. That is, until she fills in a DNA ancestry test and she quickly discovers she has plenty of long-lost relations living in the UK.
One of these relations makes contact with Evie and after the pair go for dinner, he invites her to travel to England to meet the family. They are about to throw a huge wedding celebration, and he believes now would be the perfect opportunity to get to know everyone in the well-to-do ‘Alexander dynasty’.
Evie agrees and after catching a plane to the UK, she heads to a stately mansion in the English countryside. Here she is greeted by relatives she didn’t know she had, and welcomed into the family with open arms.
But shortly into her stay, Evie comes to find that all is not what it seems. A sinister secret lurks in the shadows and the invitation to visit the family is not without a catch.
Directed by Jessica M. Thompson, The Invitation stars Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Alana Boden, Stephanie Corneliussen, Hugh Skinner, and Sean Pertwee. The movie is a Gothic horror, which is currently playing in UK cinemas, having made its debut in late August.
I won’t delve deep into the specific details of the horror presented in this movie, as I don’t want to give too much away. The film holds onto a couple of little secrets for quite some time, so no spoilers here.
However, what I will say is, if you’ve already watched the trailer for this movie, you’ll probably know what one of those revelations is. And even if you haven’t seen the trailer, you’ll no doubt guess early on… and loooooong before the information is presented.
This picture has some decent moments, and a few things going for it, but boy oh boy is it slow and incredibly drawn out. The film spends an age getting to the main thrust of things, leaving the audience hanging around, waiting for the obvious to be explained.
Divide The Invitation into thirds, and the first two thirds feel largely pointless. There is a great deal of build-up as Evie meets her new family and senses something isn’t quite right, but it takes far too long to reveal what is going on.
During this period, the film creates a suitably spooky atmosphere to set the scene, but there’s little in the way of suspense or tension, and it all feels like characters are going through the motions. It’s clear that Evie’s new family are not what they appear to be, so it’s odd that it takes the movie an age to explain who they are.
Thankfully, when the final third of the movie begins, the story gets to the good stuff and it’s here where The Invitation becomes a more interesting piece (hurrah!). It’s not a particularly shocking, exciting, or imaginative movie – but it is better than what came before.
Had this film brought all of the story beats from the final third forward, and used this to propel the movie onward, The Invitation would be far stronger. It certainly got more of my attention at this point, than anywhere else, and this section of the movie gets the ‘thumbs up’.
In terms of the cast, there are no problems with everyone involved in this picture and Nathalie Emmanuel provides a great turn as Evie. She is certainly one of the movie’s bright spots and a key focus for the film.
The movie also looks pretty good, with a dark aesthetic that matches the tone of the picture. As far as the setting, the costumes, and general ambience go, this film lands just right and I have no issues here.
It’s just a shame then the story just doesn’t quite work. With tweaks to the narrative, and some more ideas, The Invitation could be a lot more inviting than it is, but as it stands its all just a bit dull.
Fine in places, but nothing special, The Invitation feels like a missed opportunity. It has many of the right parts, and plenty in the right places, yet it just doesn’t quite work in the way it should.