The Invitation feels like a bloated Tales From The Crypt episode that loses its way the longer it goes.
Published on January 26, 2023
Rating 1.5 /5
Social horror has engrossed so much of the modern horror landscape that it’s easier to scrutinize the entries that mean well but fall short. The Invitation is a film that tries to serve up a class-divide tale with a supernatural spin. It’s clear that this film wants to be a grander commentary on eating the rich, but it’s hard to enjoy its literal staging when the rest of the narrative is such a mess.
The film starts in New York by establishing Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) as a plucky woman trying to get by as a freelancer for a catering operation. After indulging her curiosity by taking a DNA test, she discovers that she has a distant English cousin named Oliver Alexander (Hugh Skinner). She manages to contact Oliver, who informs her of the scandal-laden history involving Evie’s ancestor engaging in a taboo romance forbidden by the master and footmen. As the estranged love child of the family, Evie isn’t sure how to feel, but Oliver thinks she should meet the family in England at the manor of Walter De Ville (Thomas Doherty) amid a wedding.
Evie accepted this offer as a free vacation, hoping to become the central character of a rom-com movie. Unfortunately, the horror movie vibes are set off very early when she arrives. The wealthy family is incredibly stuffy and judgy from the start, preferring that Evie not speak with the help, who are all treated with contempt. The family gets very hush-hush about the specifics of the manor, trying and failing to hide the fact that there’s a darker side to this family. When night falls, viciousness lurks in the dark corners of the manor.
The short answer as to what goes down is that Evie has to fight her way out of a manor of vampires who want to make her the latest vampire bride of the family. The reveal of the vampires would be surprising if it weren’t because it comes so easily telegraphed, leading to scenes without much shock when dinner ends with vampires drinking blood. Compare this staging to something like From Dusk Till Dawn, where the vampire twist is a real surprise. It’s also a messy assembly, considering how much of this deception had to be staged to trick Evie into coming to the manor and buying the tale of her lineage.
The allegory is rather basic, considering how the vampires are framed. Three families serve the whims of a vampire by offering brides in trade for being rich and powerful. It’s an easy-to-read class struggle film that portrays the rich only being able to profit off the death of the lower classes. While it’s an apt assertation, it’s presented here in a manner most blunt without much character or playfulness with the concept. When comparing this staging to such films as Ready or Not and The Menu, this movie comes up short in staging compelling horror out of the concept. Even the violence feels very par for the course, where the most unique scene of two vampire women being impaled by the same blunt object is only a decent dose of violence.
The Invitation feels like a bloated Tales From The Crypt episode that loses its way the longer it goes. Considering the dreary dialogue, routine themes, and lukewarm horror elements, it's a real slog of a movie. The film’s misfire nature can best be described by the closing scene, where Evie, now a vampire, makes a baseball bat joke and thinks it’s funny for relating to vampire bats. It’s not clever, but this film wants you to think it is.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.