The concluding film at Mayhem Film Festival definitely put meaning to the word ‘mayhem’. Directed by Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body), this story steers away from conventional horror, and seems to lie more in the psychological thriller genre. The story tells us of a man named Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his wife Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), who are both ‘invited’ to attend a seemingly innocent celebration at Will’s ex-wife’s home. However, Will starts to believe that his ex-wife and her new partner have sinister intentions for their guests. Thus, the film follows protagonist Will in a hunt to find the truth, bringing the audience along for a crazy thrill ride that will not be forgotten any time soon.
The director cleverly chose to stay clear of popular horror clichés. From the outset, the film is a refreshing twist on the conventions of horror, as surprisingly action is kept to a minimum, only bursting out when appropriate. In fact, the majority of the film entirely consists of conversations between characters, which adds to the psychological feel. A sense of suffocation was successfully created by the fact that many scenes were shot in one small living room, containing approximately eleven characters at one time. Combine this with chilling music and an intriguing plot, you’ve all the good makings of a memorable horror film.
“In these moments, Kira delivered a line in which summed-up my own feelings at watching the carnage unfold: ‘Stop it! Just stop it!’”
One such trait that worked well was the use of dark humour during and in-between intense scenes. Dark humour in horror films can come across as a trite way of making the audience feel relaxed, making conventional ‘jump scares’ all the more scary. However, there were moments in this film where I genuinely couldn’t stop myself from laughing, as seemed the general feeling with the rest of the audience. There were moments when chuckling erupted from all around me, something rare for a horror film.
If we were honest with ourselves, we would almost certainly agree that characters in horror films are typically just plain stupid, and often have themselves to blame for the situations that get them killed. However, several characters in The Invitation questioned the bizarre and inappropriate behaviour of their hosts, showing us that finally, hallelujah, people in a horror movie have brains. This worked in the films favour, as by the climax we knew who we wanted to survive and who we would rather die, there was no middle ground.
“The overshadowing villain, a psychiatrist, looked exactly as a villain should – by looking like a five hundred year old skeleton”
Despite this film having many great moments, and being generally quite different from other horrors, it was not without its clichés, including: ‘no signal, oh god we’re probably all going to die now’. That, and the fact that the overshadowing villain, a psychiatrist, looked exactly as a villain should – by looking like a five hundred year old skeleton. However, the climax more than made up for all the cliché sins. Shocking, fast paced and completely unexpected, this is one climax that I did not see coming. With most horror films the climaxes seem to be little more than murder. However, this film takes it one step further, pushing into the boundaries of mass-murder.
In these moments, Kira delivered a line in which summed-up my own feelings at watching the carnage unfold: ‘Stop it! Just stop it!’. If this wasn’t enough to have to deal with, the story moves at an incredible pace towards its final twist, which leaves absolutely no time for the audience to deal with the shock. All of the action happens within minutes, and sometimes even seconds after the initial pinnacle moment. The Invitation will leave you with a sense of dread and sadness, where we can only hope that our protagonists live on to tell the tale.