“The Invitation” stars Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Courtney Taylor, Hugh Skinner, and Sean Pertwee. Released on August 26, 2022, the film has a young woman discovering horrible secrets behind her newfound family.
The film was directed by Jessica M. Thompson, who directed “The Light of the Moon” and several short films like “Hike”, “Three”, and “Across the Pond”. There’s nothing like spending the last few days of summer vacation with a good scare. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into before accepting this invitation. Sadly, that’s what this movie’s main character didn’t do, for better or worse. Obviously, the last weekend of August was our second January, where some small and uninteresting films were released to get slaughtered by viewers like myself. They’ll make a decent amount of money, but in the end, they’re forgettable movies made for us when we have nothing better to watch in between the blockbusters. Unsurprisingly, this latest horror film is no different. But it’s got Nathalie Emmanuel from the “Fast & Furious” franchise, so I was willing to give this one a chance. With that said, let’s attend this mysterious gathering and see if it’s as creepy as the trailer suggested.
The story centers on Evelyn “Evie” Jackson (Emmanuel), a struggling artist who recently lost her mother to cancer. She discovers through her DNA test that she has an extended family living in England, including her distant cousin, Oliver Alexander (Skinner). Oliver then invites Evie to attend an upcoming family wedding in the manor hosted by the landlord, Walter De Ville (Doherty). During her stay, Evie quickly discovers strange events surrounding the mansion, and her family isn’t who they seem to be. When the family’s dark intentions come to light, Evelyn fights to escape with her life.
You’re probably wondering what took me this long to review this film. First, I had a lot of stuff on my plate, so I couldn’t find the time to see it in the theater. Plus, there were plenty of movies that were more interesting than this. Second, with the film already available to rent digitally, I decided to hold off on it until October, which is the best month to watch scary movies. I like to keep up with the tradition. The best part of it was that it had the unrated version of the film available. So for those waiting for me to review this movie, I thank you for your patience, and I hope you enjoy me complaining about what is possibly one of the blandest horror films in recent memory.
Since the movie has been out for more than a month, it’s safe for me to say that “The Invitation” is another vampire movie. I had a good hunch that it would involve vampires in some capacity ever since I saw the trailer for the first time. After watching the movie, I was happy and sad to know that my hunch was correct. The unfortunate part was that it offered absolutely nothing to the genre we haven’t seen in the other vampire films. Regarding the narrative and scares, the movie is a highly predictable and lifeless copy of better horror movies involving blood-sucking monsters.
The best way I can describe the direction by Jessica M. Thompson is that it mixes the horror aspect with the gothic romance schtick to strengthen its “date night” vibes. Admittedly, this idea could’ve worked in its favor considering Evie’s character arc. But unfortunately, the film fumbled extremely hard with its subpar execution. At times, it felt more like an agonizingly mundane romance film with neither the charm nor interest in the characters to keep me distracted until the jump scares appeared. Even worse, when the frights do rise in the dead of night, they fail to provide a bite strong enough to assist its creepy atmosphere. It’s like expecting a light-hearted comedy, but you get a depressing, slow-burning drama with little to no humor. It’s quite a shame since Thompson was coming off the heels of her feature directorial debut, “The Light of the Moon”, in 2017, which had garnered strong reviews. With her second feature being a massive downgrade from her debut, the filmmaker may have a difficult time getting more projects later on.
Then there’s the movie’s third act, which didn’t help much to improve itself. You have the visuals that are pretty shoddy to look at, mainly the fire, and a specific sequence that I think was weak regarding its iffy screenplay. Usually, the finales in horror films are where the frights and action heat up in the final clash between the protagonist and the frightening monsters, which sometimes make up for their cliched plots. “The Invitation” does have that clash, but it’s sadly not enough to compensate for its bland characters and mediocre CGI.
Fortunately, the only saving grace I could find is Nathalie Emmanuel as Evie. She made a good impression on me in her supporting roles, mainly as Ramsey in the “Fast & Furious” movies, so I was somehow curious to see how she’ll do in a leading role. While it’s far from her best performance, Emmanuel made an okay effort to keep the movie from being a total bore. Thomas Doherty looks the part as the landlord with a terrifying secret, but that’s about it. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast didn’t fare any better than the two main leads, including Hugh Skinner as Oliver and Alana Boden as Lucy, a maid of honor.
Overall, “The Invitation” lacks any freshness in its blood to make my stay worthwhile. It’s a dull and extremely formulaic gothic horror movie that’s neither horrific nor gothic-y enough to stand apart from other films with similar elements. Nathalie Emmanuel was at least the only reason I kept myself from leaving early. Unfortunately, she failed to overcome the film’s predictable plot, Thompson’s subpar direction, unconvincing scares, and mundane visuals to satisfy the biggest horror fans. As expected, it’s another forgettable horror movie that’s best left staying in the coffin where it belongs.