If you prefer titillated to terrified, answer yes to The Invitation

Nathalie Emmanuel in THE INVITATION by Screen Gems

Nathalie Emmanuel in The invite
Image: Marcel Piti

The invite opens with a classic scenario: lightning illuminates a gothic mansion as thunder rumbles. A gaunt woman, lit by candlelight, prepares to jump off the second-floor ramp. The shadows seem to whisper. There is something strange, probably supernatural, under this roof. Right off the bat, it’s clear that the savvy premise of a genealogy test’s most sinister consequences is just a starting point for director and co-writer Jessica M. Thompson to indulge in the horror tropes. that we know and love.

But that’s before meeting Nathalie Emmanuel’s Evie, a struggling New York artist who mourns the recent loss of her mother. A DNA test she submitted on a whim reveals a long-lost aristocratic family in England, and soon her cousin Oliver Alexander (Hugh Skinner) invites her to a wedding across the Atlantic: “Everyone dies want to meet you”, he pleads. Despite warnings from her friend Grace (a hilarious Courtney Taylor) not to trust white people, Evie’s desire to bond family takes over and she finds herself a guest of honor at a lavish English country mansion. – the same mansion from the film’s prologue, which only looks slightly less eerie during the day. Evie picks up some ominous vibes, but doesn’t (yet) sense that there’s evil lurking, just wealthy snobs.

Plus, she’s too busy switching from flirting to seduction with the wedding party’s suave host (Thomas Doherty), the mischievously named Walter DeVille. But things go wrong overnight. Something feeds on the poor maids in their chic black and white uniforms; a bossy, creepy butler (Sean Pertwee) sends them through dark rooms to get sucked into toothy chasms, one by one. Shrikes continue to impale themselves on the windows of Evie’s bedroom, which overlooks the perpetually foggy estate. And when the wedding festivities begin, the bride and groom are still nowhere to be found.

Evie stands out here with her septum piercing, tattoos, American accent, and yes, her darker complexion. This story does not shy away from the character’s darkness, an additional obstacle to his long-awaited sense of belonging. “For someone from your… background,” sniffs one guest, joining this family “is more than a boost.” Probably due to her upbringing, Evie is very sensitive to detecting rudeness – and doesn’t tolerate it at all, like when bridesmaid Viktoria (Stephanie Corneliussen) touches her hair without asking. Emmanuel makes for an empathetic public a replacement and a charming heroine; it’s easy to see how she went from ungrateful game of thrones and Fast and Furious roles to grande dame status. Whether The invite does not prove anything else, it is that it belongs to the top of the roll call.

Doherty, whose Cheshire cat grin spans about three miles across his face, plays his romantic co-lead to (dare I say devilish?) perfection. At one point, wearing the most impeccably tailored tank top in the world, he even dares to bite his lip and lean against a door frame. Of course, the actor’s looks also lend themselves to the trope of storytelling that Thompson indulges in, the twist at this film’s heart that’s not hard to guess (especially by anyone who’s seen its trailer, which we will not include here for this reason). Spoilers from now on: Evie is shocked to learn that she is, in fact, the bride. Walt, her future husband, turns out to be a former undead being in need of multiple wives for an immortalizing blood pact, and thus, in the biggest twist of all, not very nice. Guests in spooky masquerade attire watch and laugh as one of the only remaining maids has her throat slit.

Nathalie Emmanuel and Thomas Doherty in Screen Gems THE INVITATION

Thomas Doherty and Nathalie Emmanuel in The invite
Image: Marcel Piti

A tense game of cat-and-mouse and a suitably chaotic marriage ensue, along with useful bits of exposition regarding the rules of these particular vampires. (Alana Boden’s wife, Lucy, mentions that there are “so many misconceptions about our species,” while Carol Ann Crawford’s rebellious maid reveals that a wooden stake, beheading or fire are the “only way to kill them” – good to know!) But it’s this moment of slaughter, and others like it, that make it all happen. Dracula– inspired tale more titillating than chilling. Evie gasps and the camera pans, as if blurring her vision to protect her and us from the carnage. Does a movie qualify as horror if you can count the total number of drops of blood on a hand? And we’re not talking about the red touches of Jean-Luc Godard or the scarlet spurts of Quentin Tarantino; this film is gore, what we glimpse of it, looks like wine.

To be fair, plenty of movie bloodsuckers have been sipping rather than drinking – since 1922 Nosferatus to Dusk movies, vampires often seem pretty demure to carnivorous, more gender- or style-focused. In this vein (ah!), The invite mainly capitalizes on the latter, and frankly could use the former more. Felicity Abbott’s production design, all wrought-iron doors and vaulted stone ceilings, showcases cinematographer Autumn Eakin’s sultry lighting, which is a perfect match for Dara Taylor’s eerie orchestral score. There’s a delightfully eerie shot of the mansion’s library doorway, eerie and shrouded in shadow, which effectively showcases the space as a character. Costume designer Danielle Knox’s outfits for Evie are sublime, from Foreign T-shirt to her wedding dress, bright white with delicate red flowers. Emmanuel, of course, makes a beautiful bride and proves as compelling in survival mode as he is in romantic drama.

It’s a shame, then, that Evie becoming herself — her excuse to start kicking ass finally matching the inner strength she’s exerted all along — feels too little, too late. The film moves at a fast and refreshing pace throughout, but that includes an all-too-brief third act, making any post-twist oddly rushed. (Not to beat a dead horse about a bigger Hollywood trend, but it makes it all the more egregious that The inviteThe trailer features glimpses of that ending.)

But for audiences who prefer RSVP to light horror movies, The invite is a fucking good time – without the blood. Whether or not the tyranny of the MPAA ratings kept Thompson off the mountains of gore, dismemberment and sex, sex, sex, staying in PG-13 territory robs a violent, supernatural twist of the shock value of R-level; we clutch our pearls rather than our heart rate monitors.

#prefer #titillated #terrified #answer #Invitation

Leave a Comment