Monday, January 16, 2023

Welcome to the Family

Film: The Invitation (2022)
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I knew within the first 10 minutes that The Invitation was going to be a problem. I need to be clear on the fat that I’m referring to the 2022 movie of this name and not the film from 2015 .The 2015 film called The Invitation is a solid thriller with horror elements, and it’s disturbing in all of the right ways. This film was heavily advertised, or at least I saw the trailer for it multiple times per day for what felt like a month. I got very used to the scene of Missandei from Game of Thrones at a very weird wedding reception.

Anyway, I knew this was going to be a problem because there is a huge disconnect in the opening few minutes. I realize this is a horror movie and that there are supernatural elements in it, but the non-supernatural parts of it should make sense. The opening sequence is designed to get our main character Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) the DNA test that ends up driving the film. It’s also designed to show us that Evie is a bit desperate for money, and this is where the film immediately fails.

See, we start with Evie working at a fancy party with her friend Grace (Courtney Taylor). She’s handing out beef carpaccio because she needs the job and she needs to earn money, so naturally she works one-night gigs in food service. And then she goes home, and to reinforce that she has money problems, we see a past due notice on a bill that is stuck to her wall. And then we see her apartment, which is a 1,000+ square foot loft, probably on the 10th floor or higher, in New York, where she apparently spends her evenings making pottery.

It's a small thing, but a serious one. A few years ago, my older daughter lived in Chicago. She had a studio apartment that was smaller than 400 square feet for which she paid nearly $1,000 per month. If we really want Evie’s situation to be believable and we want her in that apartment (which is unnecessary, since it doesn’t fit into the plot at all), she needs at least two roommates. Then, her struggle would at least garner some sympathy. Girl is living a good order of magnitude above her income.

Anyway, through the DNA test that she gets at the party she was working, Evie learns that she is related to a family that is connected to British aristocracy. She meets up with her second cousin Oliver (Hugh Skinner) and learns that her grandfather was the result of a dalliance between her great-grandmother and a footman. She is invited to a posh wedding in England, all expenses paid, and off she goes, where she is the lone American in an ocean of British wealth. Of primary importance to her is square-jawed Walter De Ville (Thomas Doherty), who is the lord of the manor where the wedding will be taking place, and who immediately becomes her love interest.

Things are strange for Evie, naturally, but we in the audience are going to get a taste of the nastiness to come. Five maids show up to work the wedding, and we see them being abducted/killed off, which Evie is not privy to, of course. Slowly, things are revealed to us, and we learn the truth of who all of these people are and of Evie’s actual connection to the families in question. And, while the ultimate story is ridiculous, I appreciate the fact that this swung for the fences with the decisions it made.

The Invitation, while trying desperately to be a sort of supernaturally-charged version of Eyes Wide Shut, at least in terms of the opulence and the grandeur of the sets. There are also elements of a film like Ready or Not here in the theme and where this ultimately goes. But it’s not nearly as clever as either of those films no matter how much it desperately wants to be. There is the glimmer of an idea behind The Invitation, and with a rework on the script, it would be a much more likely to have something interesting to say.

And that’s the shame of this. The Invitation really wants to have something to say. It’s desperate to be relevant and scary, and the best it can do is be a sort of parody of wealthy people and provide a few jump scares. The biggest reason for that is my rant above about Evie’s gigantic New York loft combined with her money troubles. I’m more than willing to dive head-first into the willing suspension of disbelief with everything that is plot necessary for a film. You want me to believe in monsters or aliens, or magical baseball players walking out of an Iowa cornfield, I am happy to do so for the sake of a good story. But for me to do that, the parts of that world that are supposed to draw me in and make me believe in the fantasy/horror/magic need to be like the real world as much as possible.

The Invitation is lazy, and because of that, it’s disappointing. I appreciate the inclusion of Sean Pertwee as the head butler because I like Sean Pertwee, but he deserves better than this. Sadly, though, it is in line with a lot of his filmography.

Why to watch The Invitation: Well, the set design is nice…
Why not to watch: It desperately wants to be taken seriously and simply can't be.


  1. I've heard about this film though I'm unsure if I want to see this.

    1. Genuinely, you don't. It's not worth your time.

  2. This is my first time hearing of this, I believe and it sounds like it's going to be a no for me.

    1. That's the right choice. It's 105 minutes I don't get to have back.