Thursday, September 1, 2022

the invitation

A struggling black New York visual artist, Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel), is stuck in a rut of demeaning catering jobs. She is unexpectedly whisked away to a gothic mansion of her white upper crust near-"royalty" relatives after taking a DNA test. This is the set-up to Director Jessica M. Thompson's and Writer Blair Butler's horror film The Invitation, which, like a few movies in past years, has similarities to social commentary thrillers like Ready or Not or Knives Out, where the well-to-do are odious and skewered like shish kabobs while sympathetic, spunky female protagonists scrape and claw their way to to survive and topple villainous patriarchal families. In The Invitation, the plot swerves a bit to a gooey central romance between Evie and Lord Walter (Thomas Doherty). In the beginning, Walter is warm and handsome in a generic way, but Doherty plays him just slightly unnerving enough to portray that something sinister is afoot. The love interest story refreshingly doesn't dwell upon its sociocultural implications, but it's a flimsy tale that becomes a bit of a bore. Soon, but not soon enough, the film devolves into a silly romp, with winking throwbacks (names like Lucy and Mina Harker abound). Throughout, The Invitation is gussied up with make-up and flickering candles and billowing draperies and eye-catching costumes (by Danielle Knox) in the vein of Charles Band and Hammer, which is all well-and-good, but when Evie starts fighting video game / MCU style, the movie abandons its atmosphere and oddball logic, despite Emmanuel's sturdy turn. **

-Jeffery Berg 

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