Karyn Kusama's The Invitation is a impressive psychological horror film which uses a masterful screenplay to deliver a surprisingly potent study of loss. The film is told through the point of view of Will, a thirty-something man, who has been invited to a mysterious dinner party by his ex-wife, Eden. Arriving at the home where he himself once lived, Will is introduced to Eden's new husband, David, as well as given the opportunity to reunite with a host of his old friends, many of which he hasn't seen in years. Without going into too much detail, as The Invitation is a film that is best seen going into with a completely clean slate, Will has been struggling to deal with the tragedy which effectively ended Eden and Will's marriage, the loss of a child, but when Will sees Eden, for the first time in two years, he is startled to find Eden in a emotional state of peace. Eden and David, who himself struggled with past trauma, speak highly of 'The Invitation', a new age, spiritualism which enthralls its disciples to simply let go of their problems and keep moving forward. Over the course of the dinner party, Eden and David preach their new-found beliefs to their guests, but as more time passes, Will grows increasingly suspicious as to the true nature of Eden and David's true agenda. The Invitation is a slow-burning psychological horror film with an appreciation for slow-building tension and dread, relying heavily on its astute direction and well-dimensioned screenplay to keep the viewer engaged throughout most of its running time. This is a film that intentionally spells very little out to the viewer throughout, forcing us spectators to pay close attention to every detail, as we piece together the history of these characters as well as the mystery presented by this odd dinner party. The main reason that The Invitation works in the end is its ability to paint a rather tragic portrait of its main protagonist Will, a man who continues to be haunted by the death of his son. Using well placed flashback sequences as well as expressionistic imagery, which give the viewer insight into Will's fractured psyche, The Invitation does a nice job at creating a sense of paranoia centered around Will, which in turn makes it tough for the audience to determine whether the oddities in the dinner party are truly sketchy or simply a figment of Will's somewhat fractured emotional state. The Hollywood Hills setting is another wisely designed aspect of Karyn Kusama's film, as the Invitation brilliantly uses the new-age obsessed LA culture as another way to disguise the potential danger of what is unfolding in front of the viewers eyes. Perhaps what I found most surprising about The Invitation is the poignancy it's able to create around the ideals of loss, regret, and remembrance, being a film that does a effective job at capturing the conflict that exists in grief between the need to move on with ones life and the desire and importance of never letting go, as one simply will never want to forget those loved ones which meant so much. Karyn Kusama's The Invitation is a film that erupts in chaos during its last 10-15 minutes in one of the most intense finales I've seen this year, but what the film is able to accomplish in its quieter moments is what really stood out to me, carrying a weighty, atmospheric tension and mystery while offering a thoughtful examination about love, loss, grief, and remembrance.
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