Karyn Kusama’s “The Invitation” always feels like a well-executed genre flick, but which genre exactly? That question seems wide open. Over the course of its runtime, the film can resemble a claustrophobic domestic psychodrama, a tense thriller and a dramatic examination of guilt. The whole cult aspect of the plot is practically the most normal thing about it.
“The Invitation” unfolds as secluded couple David and Eden (Michiel Huisman and Tammy Blanchard) formally invite over some friends for a dinner party. The guest list is a multicultural melting pot, though two guests really stand out – Eden’s ex-husband Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and new girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi). The unspoken consequences of a past some would rather forget loom large over the proceedings, as much as they try to pretend no elephant has parked its carcass in the room.
As they raise a glass to new beginnings, it might also be the end for some of the unsuspecting visitors. David and Eden proudly yet quietly herald their new membership in a fledgling religious group. Like many such fringe groups, the leaders seem to have preyed on their vulnerable states to induce loyalty and faithfulness. And now, they proselytize with surprising normalcy.
Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi keep details about the cult scant in their script, instead focusing on the effects it has on the characters who have accepted or scoffed at it. While a jarring tonal shift in the final act somewhat belies the normalcy they so carefully establish, “The Invitation” still provides a chilling, exciting twist on a wide variety of stories. B /