There’s a great slow-burn thriller here, and a great meditation on coping with grief, but those components collide in a way that keeps the whole thing from being great. The set-up finds Will (Logan Marshall-Green) reluctantly attending a dinner party thrown by his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband (Michiel Huisman) after two years out of touch, in the same Hollywood Hills home where their young son died in a tragic accident. The suspense elements accumulate around Will’s suspicion that the party has a creepy ulterior motive, and director Karyn Kusama proves effective at building unease without overt scares. There’s also solid material in the script—improbably by the R.I.P.D./Ride Along team of Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi—about the competing urges in grieving people to survive or to surrender. But unlike the similarly-themed The Babadook, The Invitation can’t fold its psychology of post-traumatic recovery as neatly into its straightforward genre elements. It’s artfully crafted enough for its third act to be viscerally effective, and promising enough to be faintly disappointing that it doesn’t pack a bigger emotional punch.
Director: Karyn Kusama
Producer: Martha Griffin, Matt Manfredi, Phil Hay and Nick Spicer
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lindsay Burdge, Jay Larson, Michelle Krusiec, Karl Yune, Jordi Vilasuso, Mike Doyle, Toby Huss and John Lynch