The Invitation is an utterly forgettable, uninspired affair that fails both at its scares and its dark romance.
Written by Jack Ransom / August 31, 2022
The inevitable summer horror feature aimed squarely at the teen/YA audience. The Invitation sees Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) discover a long-lost cousin (Hugh Skinner) she never knew she had. Invited by her newfound family to a lavish wedding in the English countryside, she is soon thrust into a nightmare of survival as she uncovers twisted secrets about her family history and the unsettling intentions behind their generosity.
The teen horror genre is one I have grown to loathe since the barrage of Conjuring spin-off’s, supernatural feature remakes and endless Paranormal Activity sequels infected the big screen over the past few years. Now, I can add Sony’s blood-sucking attempt to cash in on their post-Underworld empty vampiric slate. Despite the coy synopsis’ provided, the trailer for this film pretty much spoils the whole feature (twist reveal and significant plot points included… typical Sony), so there really isn’t any surprises when I say this in fact a clash of Get Out & Ready or Not with fangs…but nowhere near as good as the mentioned features.
Structurally the film even follows those two films as well. Evie’s awkward and faux-friendly socialising with her new ‘family’ and frequent concerned messaging and calls from her comedic side-character friend (Courtney Taylor) are almost copy pasted from Peele’s debut and the whole of the finale and lead character’s arc is essentially Grace’s from the deadly Hide and Seek 2019 flick. There is barely a thread of originality on display and the glimpses of gothic potential and attempts at a unique spin on vampire mythology are buried by an abundance of predictable plot points, a wooden attempt at a sleazy romance and a lack of engaging character backstory.
Production wise there is some solid set design for the interior of the mansion and there is an aura of campy slickness at times. There is a couple splattery moments, however the gore is severely neutered for the potential of the material and I’m almost certain that they considered completely bloodless with the amount of blurs, cutaways and irritating squint-inducing lighting choices for some of the bursts of violence. The editing in general is poor for any intense chase or brawl sequence being cut to shreds with no real sense of geography or impact and jump scare attempts are yawn-inducingly predictable.
Despite the dodgy screenplay Nathalie Emmanuel is an engaging enough lead, though the character of Evie isn’t particularly layered or particularly memorable, her sarcastic, suspicious ‘fish out of water’ performance is fine for the material. Thomas Doherty’s incredibly generic and almost parody level posh accent portrayal of Evie’s fanged seducer Walter, shows the studio went straight for the Twilight/Fifty Shades-esque ‘mysterious attractive guy’ jugular. Veteran performer Sean Pertwee is wasted here and really it’s only Hugh Skinner and Stephanie Corneliussen who aim for the silly campy over-the-top performances that the material deserves.
The Invitation is a film you should decline to watch if invited to. It’s not the worst horror film I have seen and it’s certainly not completely unwatchable. It is however an utterly forgettable, uninspired affair that fails both at its scares and its dark romance. The screenplay desperately sucks the narrative blood from better features, the performances suffer from the script and it simply lacks bite overall. Laughably as well the final scene gives the notion of potentially more of the story to tell.