Jessica M.Thompson’s lavish gothic horror The Invitation wants to be different, but lacks the extra ‘bite’ to stand out. The vampire sub-genre has been tried and tested many times over the decades. Sadly the tag is getting worn out and it’s 3 decades since The Lost Boys and Near Dark.
Game Of Thrones star Nathalie Emmanuel is a struggling young woman Evie who wants to be an artist, but makes a living as a low paid waitress. It’s a dead end job, she’s lonely especially losing her mother to cancer and father few years before. Evie grabs one of the gifts bags at one of the events she was working at and in that bag was a DNA test. She decides to take that test only to receive an email a few days later stating she is related to a wealthy English family and a ‘cousin’ (Hugh Skinner) decides to connect with her in New York.
From this meeting Evie is invited to a wedding in Whitby, Yorkshire. A chance to meet the ‘family’ and here she quickly falls for the host Walter DeVille (Thomas Doherty). Evie is seduced by Walt (as he likes to be called) by his every whim, at the same time she is starting to notice not is all what it seems. And the dark family secret is revealed.
The warning signs for The Invitation, were the low key marketing. That doesn’t mean to say the film is going to be bad. Personally sometimes one trailer is enough, not a trailer that gives a bit too much away. This films trailer did and the small matter of the family secret, they are vampires.
The little clues are there, like the location of the estate of the wedding Whitby. Bram Stoker’s Dracula ship The Dementer ran aground in the small town’s harbour. The handsome lord of the manor who will seduce our film’s heroine fall for his trap. The film’s opening scene also opens with a scene of a woman committing suicide and the voice of the butler (Sean Pertwee) begging the woman to eat. As the film progresses we quickly learn what they want her to feed on through Evie’s experience.
The film’s pace is very slow and is plagued with cheap jump scares . It struggles to build up the tension, engage largely thanks to the romantic angle. It drains any possible momentum and ambitions The Invitation to be a genuinely terrifying film. When we finally get to climax and the big reveal things feel flat lacks atmosphere until it gets bonkers again.
Thompson’s ambitions are honourable. She twists and turns some of the vampire mythology upside down. The dinner scene is probably the creepiest of all the horror scenes. It’s at this point the film wants to be another Ready Or Not wannabe with vampires this time. Throw in some tropes from Jordan Peele’s Get Out with issues of class and racism.
Nathalie Emmanuel does well to try carry the film as a young woman looking for some connection. She can’t see the dangers until it’s too late and hams it up at the end when it becomes a True Blood clone. The Invitation is a very flawed tame gothic vampire tale that lays heavy on the romance and forgets it’s vital subject, it’s a horror.
Horror, Romance | USA, 2022 | 15 | Cinema | 26th August 2022 | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir.Jessica M. Thompson | Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Sean Pertwee, Alana Boden, Hugh Skinner
This review was originally post at The Peoples Movies | 29th August 2022