RSVP “no” to “The Invitation”

Sometimes, the trailer is more inviting than the actual film. Jessica M. Thompson’s The Invitation is just the latest example of this.

The Invitation stars Nathalie Emmanuel as American Evie Jackson, a struggling artist who works for a catering company in order to make ends meet. After taking an online DNA test and finding extended family in Europe, she accepts an invitation from her newly-discovered cousin to attend a wedding and is swiftly whisked to a life of luxury and intrigue.

The dream sours when a dark truth is revealed, and she must escape from a fate she finds worse than death. While the plot seems fine enough as a summary, it unfolds like bad fan fiction. The rushed intro promises action and intrigue yet keeps a pace that ensures the events that happen don’t actually make much sense. The staff is mostly dodgy and uninviting, yet Evie is apparently too distracted by her dashing love interest to actually care about what’s happening around her.

Oliver, played by Hugh Skinner, starts adorably as an excitable puppy who just wants to meet his new cousin and introduce Evie to her new large extended family across the pond, later pulling off a darker tone once the truth of the matter is revealed. Thomas Doherty plays well enough into his role as charming billionaire Walt DeVille, who is suave yet eager to seduce the main character. Once his true form is revealed, the actor really plays into it and has fun. The two side characters Victoria and Lucy, played by Stephanie Corneliussen and Alana Boden respectively, play off each other well as the snarky-bitch and bubbly-blonde duo and are amusing to watch. Courtney Taylor, Evie’s friend Grace, easily has some of the best lines in the movie and is fun to watch even from an iPhone screen. The performances here could have made for a really dark yet campy thriller if not for one main issue.

The lead heroine is the movie’s real downfall. Emmanuel, though beautiful, does not pull off the chops needed for a leading lady of this type of movie. Evie is weakly set up as an independent New Yorker who has no family and apparently only one friend, yet is so trusting that she jumps at the chance to go to a foreign country with a person she just met on the premise he’s her cousin based on an internet DNA test.

Throughout the film, Evie has bland reactions to anything that happens. Forget being overwhelmed, she fails to even look whelmed until she sees someone brutally murdered and drained of blood right in front of her. Even after that, she only slightly raises her voice to inform everyone she wants to go home. Whether it was the direction or the actress that was bad, the final result was a wannabe progressive modern woman that was, in reality, no more than a fainting goat with a negative adrenal response.

An attempt at an action-packed climax falls flat thanks to weird directing or blocking choices. The whole film feels like there were some fun and maybe even creative ideas present but no one actually knew how to execute them.

Unfortunately, The Invitation was doomed from the start. While it’s usually preferred to avoid spoilers, nothing mentioned so far here should be a shock if you’ve seen the trailer. Every interesting plot twist or plot device is laid out, leaving no wiggle room for excitement or anticipation. It’s like the filmmakers didn’t trust their audience enough to handle a few jumpscares or intense scenes from their horror film.

Jessica M. Thompson’s The Invitation promised to be a thrilling, chilling, action-packed vampire horror film yet fails to deliver on the most basic premises and promises. It’s boring, predictable by design, and would have been turned off had it been screened in a home instead of the movie theater.

While the jump scares will not leave you screaming, the leading lady’s inability to move certainly will.

The Invitation is currently playing in theaters.


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