Directed by: Jessica M. Thompson
Premise: A working class American woman (Nathalie Emmanuel) makes contact with distant relatives who are part of British high society. She is invited to a wedding at a posh English estate where dark family secrets are revealed.
What Works: The Invitation stars Nathalie Emmanuel in the lead role and she is quite good. The movie sets up a class difference between this woman’s working-class life and the wealth of her newfound family. Emmanuel plays upon that difference in a way that defines her character. The movie’s riffs on racial and economic differences are interesting. The filmmakers don’t do nearly enough with those ideas but they do give the film some added thematic texture. The Invitation is partly inspired by Dracula and fans of that story will enjoy spotting the references to Bram Stoker’s novel. The movie does not require familiarity with Dracula but that knowledge does enhance the viewing experience. The moviemakers adequately lay out the clues in advance of the film’s big reveal and the world that The Invitation creates is a compelling one. It’s too bad the rest of the movie squanders an interesting setup.
What Doesn’t: The filmmakers of The Invitation screw up an interesting premise by doing nearly everything wrong. Someone had an interesting idea but no one involved in making the movie thought of anything worthwhile to do with that concept; that’s evidenced in the way The Invitation spins its wheels for so much of its running time. The film takes forever to get going. Once Nathalie Emmanuel’s character arrives at the estate very little actually happens until nearly the end of the picture. The waitstaff who have been hired to work the wedding are gradually killed off but no one seems to notice, not even the other waitresses. Despite the mounting body count, there is a lack of tension or interest. Meanwhile, Emmanuel’s character is supposed to be seduced by the lord of the manor (Thomas Doherty) but the love story doesn’t have much heat to it. There are some potentially interesting side stories, especially between two women (Stephanie Corneliussen and Alana Boden) who have a mean girl shtick, but we don’t get nearly enough of them. The Invitation is not scary. The frights are not staged in a way that draws out tension or builds an atmosphere of dread. The movie frequently looks awful. The dark scenes are murky and the action is nearly impossible to decipher.
Bottom Line: There is a worthwhile concept in the background of The Invitation but that conceit is botched at every turn. It’s not scary or suspenseful. The Invitation is just a murky slog.
Episode: #917 (September 11, 2022)