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The Invitation Is a Cool Throwback to Classic Hammer Horror

If you haven’t seen the trailer for The Invitation, do yourself a favor and skip it. I’m not usually one to complain that trailers spoil too much of their movies’ plots, but even I have to admit that this trailer gives away pretty much the entire film. In fact, up until the last 15 minutes or so, I felt like I knew exactly what was going to happen. Granted, I didn’t know all the details, but I was already familiar enough with the overarching story that nothing surprised me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still liked The Invitation, but I think I would’ve liked it even more if the trailer didn’t spoil the movie’s surprises. So like I said if you haven’t seen the trailer already, avoid it like the plague. Go into this film as blind as possible, and I think you’ll have a much better time with it. To that end, I’m going to write this review as if the trailer didn’t give away the story’s big reveals, so if you haven’t had them spoiled for you already, you’ll still be able to see this movie the way it was meant to be seen.

The Invitation was directed by Jessica M. Thompson, and it stars Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Courtney Taylor, Hugh Skinner, and Sean Pertwee. It’s about a young American woman named Evie who takes a DNA test and discovers a British cousin she never knew she had. As luck would have it, this cousin just happens to be in the states at the time, so they meet up and get to know each other. During their conversation, he invites her to a family wedding over in England, and although she’s a bit reluctant at first, she eventually agrees to go.

When Evie arrives at the mansion where the wedding will be held, she meets a charming man named Walter, and they seem instantly enchanted with each other. They quickly begin a romantic relationship, but Evie soon learns that Walter and her new family aren’t quite as lovely as they seem. They harbor a dark secret, and that secret might put her very life in danger.

Evie looking up in her wedding gown
Nathalie Emmanuel in Screen Gems THE INVITATION

The Invitation had me hooked from the very first frame. It opens with a brief introduction that showcases the movie’s dark, gothic tone, and it’s awesome. It feels like an old Hammer film from the 1950s or 1960s, so if you enjoy that kind of vibe, I think you’ll like this movie.

Then, when the main story begins, it rushes through the character introductions as quickly as possible and does the absolute bare minimum of setup, so the characters are pretty thin. But surprisingly, it works. The performances are just really good, so I found myself liking these characters and enjoying their story even though I didn’t know much about them.

About 25 minutes later, the horror starts to kick into gear, and the movie gets even better. Just like the introduction, the rest of The Invitation from this point on also has a really great gothic look and feel to it, and that alone was enough to keep my eyes glued to the screen. It’s almost like Crimson Peak light, and I mean that as a compliment.

On top of that, the movie also features a bunch of pretty fun and effective scares. They let you know without a shadow of a doubt that there’s something evil here, but you don’t know what it is. Is it a demon? A vampire? Some other kind of monster? The film doesn’t tell you yet, and that’s part of the fun.

It’s a cool little mystery, and I say that as someone who already knew most of the film’s secrets. The impact of that mystery was unfortunately blunted for me, but if you go into this movie blind, I think you’re going to enjoy it even more than I did.

Walter smiling at Evie
Thomas Doherty and Nathalie Emmanuel in Screen Gems THE INVITATION

All that being said, I do have to acknowledge that The Invitation is not a perfect film. In particular, there are two things it probably could’ve done better. For starters, I didn’t totally buy Evie’s budding relationship with Walter. They have good chemistry together, but the movie just does a poor job of explaining why they were so instantly attracted to each other.

It’s a very stereotypical “two people meet and start a relationship because they’re both attractive” kind of situation, so it doesn’t have any substance. It’s just a bland, hollow cliche, so while I understood the physical element of their mutual attraction, I wanted more.

On top of that, The Invitation is based on some very famous source material, but the connections to that source material are entirely unnecessary. In fact, they feel almost shoehorned in. The characters just drop a few names here and there, and that’s literally it. It left me feeling pretty short-changed, so I would’ve preferred it if the filmmakers had just let the movie stand on its own as an entirely original concept.

To be fair, I suspect that I would’ve felt differently about that connection if the trailer hadn’t spoiled it for me. I probably would’ve been pleasantly surprised by the fun little easter eggs, so once again, avoid this trailer if you can. Go into The Invitation as blind as possible, and I think you’ll have a much better time with it.

But at the end of the day, I still quite enjoyed this movie even though the trailer spoiled almost all of its secrets. It has a cool mystery, some fun scares, a great gothic look and feel, and a whole bunch of really charming and likable characters. It’s a nice little throwback to the beloved Hammer classics of the 1950s and 1960s, so if you’re looking for some good new horror, I recommend giving The Invitation a shot.

The Invitation is playing in theaters right now.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today. He blogs at Embrace Your Fears.

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