A young woman is courted and swept off her feet, only to realize a gothic conspiracy is afoot.
A bit of a deviation from the norm today. We are taking a look at a recent Hollywood horror movie – The Invitation. This is currently doing the rounds on the cinema circuit. It’s been a long while since I reviewed something current but, why not? It’s nice to mix things up every now and then. The Invitation fits the bill perfectly.
I have just updated this review to reflect The Invitation Unrated Edition differences. Remember when I promised I would suffer for you and watch it again? Well, I did, I wasn’t impressed but that’s the life of a horror movie reviewer.
I am sure some of you are wondering about the differences between The Invitation vs The Invitation Unrated Edition. You have come to the right place. Back when this movie released I promised you guys that I would check out the unrated edition asap. Teased during the movie’s initial cinema run. The unrated edition promised more gore, extended scenes and more nudity. This was going to be the ultimate cut of The Invitation. Considering the pretty average nature of The Invitation, that wasn’t exactly a tantalising prospect. Still, I have taken a look at it and can fill you in a little on the differences.
Now, obviously I can’t go into detail. I keep my reviews as spoiler free as possible. What I can tell you, however, is that The Invitation Unrated Edition does deliver a lot more on the gore front. As far as nudity goes, this is horror for girls primarily. If you want to see more of Walter looking buff, you will prefer the unrated version. Guys and girls hoping for a more revealing performance from Nathalie Emmanuel as Evie may be disappointed. We get some slightly obscured nudity but nothing salacious. I hear she starred in Game of Thrones so that may be a better option for y’all. There is an extended sex scene in the middle of the movie that caters to the nudity side of the unrated edition’s promises.
As far as the gore goes, the unrated version does deliver. In fact, some of the scenes are pretty shocking. Basically, any of the scenes that featured a long angle or a cut away in the theatrical release are extended. We also have some graphic dismemberment and a beheading with a twist. This definitely would not have earned a PG-13 rating at the cinema. The added scenes make it feel far more like an adult horror. I wouldn’t say it improves the movie, as such, but this is absolutely the cut you want to see. If you can grab The Invitation Unrated Edition, go for it. Don’t bother with the standard version unless you prefer a lack of violence or don’t want to see Walt’s ballfro.
I have been thinking about how much to reveal in this article. This movie absolutely shits its pants in the trailer and gives away the whole plot. I am wondering how spoiler free I should keep the review? The trailer didn’t care, should I?
You see, The Invitation is hard to explain without spoiling. If I was to say haunted house filled with creepy people with a main character that is a fish out of water; you may kind of get what I mean. You know the type of movie! Think Get Out but with more tongue in cheek, even whiter white people, a bigger house and a thinner plot. Human Centipede but with less eating of poo and more fancy dresses. Elaborating further than that risks giving too much away.
On a side note, I kind of scowled at the name of this movie. For those who don’t know, The Invitation is also an indie horror movie from 2015. Editing this review from the future. I actually reviewed The Invitation (2015) for our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Horror feature so check it out. 2015’s The Invitation is a genuinely decent movie that I really enjoyed. In traditional Hollywood fashion, along comes this much bigger movie to steal the title and hog google results. Still, they are very different movies from different ends of the horror spectrum. Maybe they can happily co-exist?
The Invitation, directed by Jessica M. Thompson and from the producer of The Curse of La Llorona, follows protagonist Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) as she travels to London to meet long lost relatives. She is a struggling artist living in New York and attempting to make ends meet. She works as a waitress for a catering company that serves business functions. Her Mother has recently passed away, she has no family, and seems to be quite lonely.
While working for a company, she receives a DNA test kit pack as a party favour. Feeling as though she has no place in the world, she completes it and sends it off. One of the optional tick boxes on the DNA test specifies sharing your information with potential familial connections. Naturally, it isn’t long before a person contacts her claiming to be a distant cousin. The man, Oliver (Hugh Skinner), is from England and requests that they meet up for a drink.
Upon meeting, Evie is brought up to date on her family history, scandal and all. Oliver informs her that there is a wedding coming up which would be a perfect opportunity to meet her family. It definitely wouldn’t be horribly awkward. Oliver insists on paying for her travel and, the next thing we know, we are in the UK.
The wedding is being held at a grand estate owned by the charming, and extremely sharp jawed, Walter DeVille, played by Thomas Doherty. A little low key flirting occurs, of course. Walter insists that Evie use his home as her own and she is treated as a guest of honour.
It doesn’t take long before strange things begin to occur. Maids disappear, there are spiked bars at the window, a spooky forbidden door, and weird things going on. Still, Walter is rather charming and Evie’s pole sense is tingling so why worry? Surely Walter can’t be hiding something from Evie? The absence of any blood related women other than Evie is definitely purely coincidence.
Believe it or not, The Invitation took the number one box office spot in the last week of August 2022. To be fair, that isn’t really saying much because there is sod all out at the moment. The line up is starting to look like a lazy Sunday’s TV schedule in the middle of Autumn. Avatar reissue, Jaws in IMAX, The Dark Knight in 4DX, Spiderman No Way Home.. It’s like a dollar store’s DVD section.
This was the first movie my partner and I have seen in the cinema for a long time. We used to go frequently but due to Covid we almost entirely gave up. To say it was a worrying visual for the cinema industry, in the UK, would be an understatement. If you would have told me the entire cinema had been evacuated, I would have believed you. There was nobody there at all and only one other couple in the screen with us. Major cinema companies are struggling and streaming service are compounding that ten fold. It’s sad to see but I do enjoy an empty screen. Anyway, with that observation out of the way, back to the review.
I didn’t have high hopes for The Invitation. Judging by the trailer, I was preparing for a movie with a rod shoved firmly up its arse. It turns out, however, that The Invitation is actually the opposite. Or, at least, I think it is. Maybe I missed the point and it was actually supposed to be extremely serious and high art?
The Invitation seems fairly tongue in cheek. If my impressions of the movie are correct that is. I think The Invitation fills a niche that horror movie writers seems less and less willing to fill. Sure, we get one every once in awhile. Happy Death Day is a good example. But what happened to the fun, easy to watch, slightly silly horror movie? They don’t even have to be comedy horror. They just need to give the viewer a good time and let them switch off their brain for an hour or so.
Everyone enjoys camp “Hammer Horror” style movies that are easy to digest, right? You know the type, easy to watch with your mates. You imagine it is going to be shit so if it is a bit better than that you are happy. The Invitation falls into this category. It doesn’t take itself too seriously.
It seems as though there are a couple of horror movies on the horizon aiming for this niche. The upcoming Bodies Bodies Bodies also appears to be marketing itself as a feel good, fun, horror. I think that is a good thing. There are far too many serious, heavy drama horror movies. It all gets a bit dreary after awhile. Does that mean The Invitation is good? Well, not really, but it is fairly watchable.
The Invitation has some issues other than an abundance of plot holes. I mean, who would travel across the world with a stranger to meet some second cousins, for one? To start, the first half of The Invitation is almost a pure romance movie. It plays out like one of those awful Christmas movies. You know, the ones that feature a “will they, won’t they” relationship between two people from different worlds.
I love Christmas. In fact, for 2022, I am going to be doing an Awful Advent 25 Days of Christmas Horror feature to celebrate the season. An annual tradition in my house is watching too many dreadful Hallmark Xmas movies and laughing at how bad they are. There is actually one specific Hallmark Christmas movie, Crown for Christmas, where some chick goes to a prince’s palace and looks after his kid. She is poor, he is rich but they still end up bumping uglies. A wonderful tale of love and unequal power dynamics in a relationship.
So much of the early part of this movie reminded me of that. Even the look of the location and the arrival of Evie at Walter’s palace. If I am remembering it correctly, it’s actually bordering on plagiarism. Hell the main character in that used to be a maid at a hotel in New York.
This is a bit of a problem for pure horror fans. It’s a bit too much of a romance and it is incredibly awkward at times. I laughed out loud at a couple of points due to the cliched scenes Evie and Walter share. The dialogue is toe curling and Walter comes across as a smarmy asshole. I am not sure whether this is intentional given the plot or whether that is the way rich dudes would flirt? Either way, horror fans can likely live without the declarations of love, noisy kissing and awkward sex scenes. Said awkward sex scenes are even longer and even more awkward in The Invitation Unrated Edition.
While The Invitation does attempt to be something of a horror movie, it isn’t very scary. The Invitation favours jump scares but still rarely manages to deliver. I think my partner jumped once and she is usually extremely jumpy with horror movies. I can guarantee she hasn’t developed a steely resolve to no longer jump in horror movies. It’s just not very good at setting a scene, developing tension, and delivering the payoff.
There are only a very small number of scenes featuring actual horror elements. None of these scenes are particularly scary and the lighting doesn’t do the movie any favours. The Invitation is so dark in parts. It is actually difficult to see what it is that is supposed to be scaring you. I will point out that The Invitation Unrated Edition does up the ante a little. It isn’t scarier, as such, but it is a lot gorier and feels like more of a horror movie for it. It is far less PG-13.
The camera work, as a whole, is pretty awful. Lots of brief, quickly changing camera shots, unimaginative framing, poor lighting and cliched set ups come together to create something very boring to look at. The Invitation is not exactly a visual feast. Some of the sets seem extremely claustrophobic. This mansion is huge, why are the shots so tight and everyone clustered into tiny spaces? Even the garden feels small. The later scene around the table is a particularly good example of this.
There is a plastic feeling to everything that robs the movie of scope and scale. A minor niggle but we are clearly not in England here. The mansion doesn’t look at all like something you would see in the UK. It has a very Eastern European feel to it. This took me out of a few scenes a little, as well.
Honestly, it is pretty hard to root for anyone in The Invitation. Acting tends to be okay. I enjoyed Thomas Doherty’s final 20 minutes as Walter and Nathalie Emmanuel is decent. I think a lot of it is down to terrible writing. Dialogue is awful and unnatural. Conversations often feel forced and can be horribly cliched. This is a particular problem with Evie and Walter’s interactions. Stephanie Corneliussen, as Viktoria, hams it up completely, especially towards the end. This may not be for everyone but Alana Boden as Lucy is really likeable.
Evie is a bit of a smart arse but, unfortunately, not in that charming way so many horror movie women are. You don’t really feel like she is sticking it to the man. Just that she is a bit disagreeable and self righteous. There is also some casual racism. It is directed towards white people and Brits but will probably irritate some viewers. I wasn’t bothered by it but I do try and point out racism whenever I can. Some people are really put off by it regardless of the recipients.
A few of the characters don’t react appropriately to events. For example, there is a scene where a maid drops some glasses and is shouted at. Evie gets angry and shouts at the head butler. Evie works in the service industry. She would be used to being shouted at and understand it comes with the territory. This becomes a vehicle for Evie empathising with the maids because apparently basic human decency wouldn’t cut it. Just one of a few unnecessary plot devices.
A big part of the problem with The Invitation is that it is PG-13. There is virtually no gore, the scares are mild, the tension is subdued and everyone is on their best behaviour. Sex scenes are awkwardly shot to avoid nipples and there is only one scene featuring rear nudity. I don’t want to spoil the movie but, given the theme, that is a problem. Shooting for a wider cinema release has impacted the horror element of this movie in a big way.
The Unrated version does fix this a little. We have an extended sex scene in the middle for those of you who enjoy that kind of thing. It is the gore factor that helps things along, however. The Invitation Unrated Edition is far more graphic with a few scenes actually being quite shocking. The movie really needed this to not feel as though it is teen horror lite. I wouldn’t say the scenes improve the movie much. They just make it feel a bit more adult and a little less silly.
So, this section of the review was written before I had watched the unrated version. You can read on if you like as much of what I said still applies. It was a chore to sit through again and the payoff wasn’t really worth it. I wish I had just fast forwarded through to find the parts that have changed. It is better than the theatrical release, however so that apparently makes it worth nearly 2 hours of my life I won’t get back. You can the unrated version on Blu-Ray, Apple TV for purchase and a few other places.
Apparently there is an uncut version coming out after the theatrical run. This uncut version will feature more gore and nudity which should be more fitting given the type of horror film this is. I imagine this will improve the overall movie all things considered but will likely not be for everyone. I will update the review to reflect if I can be arsed to re-watch.
The Invitation has a runtime of 1 hour and 45 minutes. That is a long haul. It doesn’t feel as long as it could because it keeps you fairly engaged. The pacing is pretty decent. Sitting through it again, however, would be a massive chore. It is definitely a one time watch movie. Honestly, I don’t think I could sit through the absolutely terrible ending again. The Invitation’s ending might rank up there as one of the worst in recent horror movie history. Terrible CG, lots of awkward acting, bad martial arts and a weird “2 weeks later” cut back. It’s all just really bad.
It’s hard to put your finger on but, despite its issues, The Invitation doesn’t feel like a terrible movie. It isn’t a good movie, that’s for sure, but I didn’t mind it. It was funny, whether intentional or not. I found myself laughing a lot at some of the awkward romance scenes. There’s a few moments of intentional humour that made me giggle as well.
It’s quite a fun movie that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. It is almost as if they wanted to create a serious movie. Realised it was a bit shit and leaned into the fact that it’s a bit shit. It ends up quite tongue in cheek and not a difficult watch. As I said before the pacing is fine. It keeps you fairly engaged and the tone of the movie is light. It’s cool to see a movie in this genre as well. I did enjoy picking out some of the references to some of the better movies that inspired The Invitation too.
Acting is generally good. Evie’s friend Grace, payed by Courtney Taylor, is a blast and the family scenes are pretty fun. The movie suffers the most when it is focussing purely on Evie or Evie and Walter. The scenes with Evie and Walter rob the movie of any horror element and turn it into a romcom.
I think The Invitation would really appeal to non-horror fans that fancy something a bit different. It’s a good horror movie for teens and potentially women who aren’t traditional horror fans. You might even be able to get away with watching it with older kids. Well, the theatrical version anyway, not The Invitation Unrated Edition. The romance element will likely be enjoyed by non-horror fans and the humour keeps it rolling over for everyone else. If you want to slap something on that is fairly mindless, switch off your brain and just enjoy, The Invitation might just do it. For pure horror fans, however, it’s just not very good.
The Invitation is not a particularly good movie. As a horror, it's not very scary, the romance plot takes centre stage for much of the movie and the characters are not particularly likeable. Scripting is poor leading to a lot of awkward scenes featuring unnatural reactions and stilted dialogue.
Cinematography is bland, lighting is incredibly dark, sets are claustrophobic and it's generally boring to look at. Horror fans will likely be disappointed at the lack of horror and the predictability of the plot and the scares. A horrible ending with terrible CG wraps everything up in a way that may leave a bad taste in your mouth.
If, however, you are looking for something mindless and easy to watch, The Invitation is not too bad. It's fairly tongue in cheek and quite funny in parts. You are sure to get a laugh from the awkward romance scenes and it never takes itself very seriously. The pace, despite a long runtime, is actually decent and it never feels too long. The Invitation might be a great option for non-horror fans or even young teens. Everyone else expecting a decent horror movie, look elsewhere.