[SPOILER ALERT] The Invitation [SPOILER ALERT]
It’s day four of the Horror Movie Marathon! I choose the movie tonight, based on nothing more than a catchy picture and an intriguing description on Netflix. The obviously psychological thriller nature of the movie is a relief to me but has Mikey a little concerned that it won’t suit the needs of a Horror Movie Marathon.
The Invitation is not rated and is available on Netflix. At the time of our viewing, it has the following online ratings:
IMDB rating 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes 88% critics, 71% audience
It’s evening as we watch, dark outside and dimly lit inside. Our viewing is punctuated by expressions of confusion, concern and disbelief throughout. We both take notes throughout the movie and send our chosen questions to one another via Google Docs afterward. Below, you can find his responses to my questions. He’s posting my responses to his questions here, on his website.
Solee: We questioned whether this movie would actually qualify as horror. At what point were you confident that it did?
Mikey: Yeah, it was listed as a “psychological thriller”, and we weren’t too sure… I think I was sure at the point where the owner of the house was insistent on locking the front door, and almost insisted that he take the key with him as well. You know you’re in for trouble at that point. But really it’s not about specific actions, but the mood. Good heavens, this movie made walking down the hall in a well-lit house creepy.
Solee: It certainly kept on on the edge of my seat. We meet several members of a closely knit group of friends – or former friends. Did the characters feel authentic to you or did they feel too archetypal?
Mikey: I think the characters actually were pretty unique and nuanced in terms of how they actually behaved. The filmmakers were definitely looking for “one of everything” with the group itself though – the token black girl, token gay couple, token asian couple. But since they didn’t really resort to any stereotypes that I can recall, I don’t really see a downside to that. It’s actually a good thing to put all kinds of different people on screen as just plain normal people.
Solee: How about the dialogue? This group of friends obviously has a long, complicated history together. Did the dialogue work to establish this in a realistic way?
Mikey: Sure, I felt like there were certain awkward things lurking in the conversation, and various connections at play. It was well done!
Solee: The main character, Will, brought his girlfriend, Kira, to dinner. What assumptions did you make about their relationship based on their interactions?
Mikey: They actually seemed pretty good. There was talk towards the end about her being distant or something, but I saw her being supportive of all the issues he has to deal with. I could definitely see the potential for some serious strain there (why wouldn’t there be?), but it was of a subtle nature, not the usual angry fights you see in movies. I did notice that he kept going off on his own in the house, and she’d stay behind to chat without him, but I always figure other people are more socially capable than me – it reminded me of myself and my wife, me going off for some peace from the party while she engages them to keep them from tracking me down!
Solee: Yes, that’s a familiar behavior pattern, although I’m not sure you would have left me alone with the sketchy vibes that were flying around. Or that I would have let you. Throughout the movie Eden, David and their friends seem to champion the idea that happiness is the opposite of grief. Do you agree with this idea? Why or why not?
Mikey: I would not say that they are opposites, no. In fact, I think they’re almost unrelated, other than the fact that you can’t generally feel both at the same time (but you sorta can… like that pang of grief in the midst of enjoying something you used to do with somebody who is gone). I think the cult was a teensy bit misguided in their beliefs, though to be fair, I agree with them that you do escape sadness when you die. I just feel like the accompanying downsides to death outweigh that a bit.
Solee: Indeed. Let’s take a minute for the HALF-TIME ANALYSIS: Do you feel like you understand what’s happening at this point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?
Mikey: By the halfway point, everything is completely wide open – There is no way to tell if the people are really up to something evil, or if they’re just super weird. In fact, to sneak ahead in the movie a bit, I want to talk about this idea that kept building bigger in my mind throughout the movie: The further we got, with all the unverified but seemingly evil actions going on, the more I was convinced that there was nothing going on, and that the movie was doing something that seemed very clever to me: making us feel what Will feels, being in this situation. We get the creepy music to lend a sinister edge to otherwise normal actions, we get the paranoid trips to spy on what’s in the bathroom, all these things that could be totally normal, but from Will’s point of view, they’re the signs of a murderous cult.
Even at the moment he threw down his wine glass, I was still not totally sure that we were in for evil cult action. I was half-convinced that the finale would be him going nuts in his paranoia and killing somebody and running out of there. That probably would’ve been a much weaker ending, but at the same time, how powerful to see that all the stuff we saw could have been totally fine, it just looked evil when you layer it with creepy camera moves and dark music. That really puts us right into his clearly messed-up head.
So anyway, I was not confident at all that I knew where it was going, because I didn’t know where it was going! It was really riding a knife edge and could go either way.
Solee: Think about the dinner scene. At this point in the movie, which character did you find most unsettling? Who did you find most relatable?
Mikey: For unsettling, I think there may be a toss-up between the couple’s two psycho friends. Sadie’s completely coke-addled behavior really left you wondering when she was going to cut somebody, and Pruitt would constantly sit in the background of every scene just silently staring at everyone. I think Will is definitely the most relatable for me (it helps that as the main character we spend the whole movie jammed inside his head). I can see myself a lot like him, sadly!
Solee: Speaking of dinner, why was the dining room upstairs? That’s weird, right?
Mikey: It’s less weird than an upstairs door to the garage!
Solee: Someone in that house obviously agreed with you on that one. Were there any scenes that really stood out to you as particularly meaningful or symbolic? (I’m going to make you start thinking about these movies on a more symbolic level if it kills me!)
Mikey: I might not be capable of thinking about symbols. It all felt very meaningful though! There was so much talk about grief and what it means, and we really got to live what it felt like in Will.
Solee: So what was your main take-away for this movie?
Mikey: I haven’t discussed this at all in my previous answers, but this movie reminds me a lot of the movie Creep, in that it really tackles something I haven’t seen in any other movies: the reality of a horrifying situation. Which is to say, if you met somebody who was a serial killer, for real, in the real world, how far would it go before you truly accepted that your life was in danger and did something about it? That’s hard for me to explain, but the reality of it is that you would keep giving them the benefit of the doubt over and over because the idea that they were actually trying to kill you would just be too big to handle. They could be walking towards you with a butcher knife in hand, eyeing you hungrily, and you would still be laughing nervously and at most edging backwards a few steps. I mean, if you were wrong, that’d be one major mishap, right? So you go into this evil party, and you just think “Oh, that’s weird. And that’s weird. And that’s even weirder. But I’ll look weird if I don’t drink this wine, right? I don’t wanna look weird.”
Social pressures are more powerful than almost anything. In real life, often, people will actually die because of social pressure – I’m thinking here of things like daring someone to hold a firecracker while it goes off, or cliff jumping. The social pressure (of something so stupid!) completely outweighs your survival instincts.
Solee: Break down your POST-GAME ANALYSIS for me:
What was the final body count? Did Claire make it? (I know she wouldn’t end up in the body count either way, since we didn’t see it, but what do you think?)
Mikey: The body count was 1 coyote, 1 snuff film, and 8 people. Claire did not make it. Pruitt was the most dedicated of all, and he would ensure that she “joined the party” like it or not (much like he did for several people at the end). I do want to add that I thought it was interesting that one of the random people survived. I’m not sure what specifically prompted it, but there wasn’t anything special about that one guy, it could have been any of the friends. Just kind of nice that, just as it would be in real life, it wasn’t just the hero pulling through.
Solee: Were you scared at any point in the movie?
Mikey: I don’t think scared is an appropriate word. I was truly on the edge of my seat for most of the movie though. It did an amazing job at being unsettling and leaving you hanging there without a life raft. The whole thing was continuous tension.
Solee: How accurate were your predictions?
Mikey: Exactly as accurate as they seemed when I made them: 50/50! It did end in one of the ways I thought it would.
Solee: Finally, how would you rate The Invitation? Who should watch this movie and in what context?
Mikey: This movie is a solid 4.5/5. It was inevitable that the end would sort of let it all down, but it had to happen or there wouldn’t have been an ending. It was a decent ending, just all the running and screaming was a lot less clever than everything that led up to it. Oh, and the final twist actually was pretty good. I did not see it coming, and it truly caps this off as truly horror. The thought of what it could mean was just terrifying.
I think this is a very adult movie, in a lot of ways (there’s no sex, not too much gore, and I don’t even think there’s much profanity, but it is about as adult as a movie could be!), but that adults should check it out. I think younger people would probably find it boring, even college kids, but it really says something to us old folks!
Solee: That’s an interesting point, and I totally agree. There was something about the dynamic of their relationships that resonated with me. The way they acted together – teasing, arguing, looking out for one another – that kind of closeness only comes from decades of friendship and lots of shared experiences. I found it very touching.
Tomorrow we’ll be watching [*REC], another found footage film. See you then!