One of the toughest genres to succeed in for inexperienced filmmakers is PG-13 horror.
PG-13 horror movies are limited in the resources that they can use for maximum scares, most films result to jump scares and loud noises to achieve their effect. The only franchise that has succeeded in this formula is “The Conjuring” franchise which after almost 10 years, has become tiresome in its own right. When you put novice filmmakers in the role of trying to operate around these limitations, only the best creators are either going to make their potential.
If you are a fan of the old G4, you may have heard the name Blair Butler before. Butler was the residential comic book nerd during the heyday of the network but since then, she has now turned her sights to writing movies.
The horror genre seems to be the place to go for novice writers and directors to build and learn their craft, just ask Jordan Peele, the man responsible for creating the recent wave of “socially conscious thrillers”. If the 2022 film “The Invitation” is seeking to become the female “Get Out”, then they swung and miss in their efforts.
“The Invitation” is a film about a 30-year-old woman named Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) living alone with her best friend in New York City. Struggling with the recent death of her mother and having no other relatives to help her grieve, Evie takes a DNA test to learn about her heritage. Evie gets her results and discovers a long-lost cousin living in the UK. He Invites her to attend a wedding with her newfound family and because it is a lavish celebration in the English countryside she opts to go.
Evie meets the new family along with a sexy aristocrat named Walter (Thomas Doherty) who she is grateful is not related to her as he seems to be obsessed with her. Just as Evie thinks she can get used to her new settings, she notices that there is something about the house that is off. Evie’s new family is keeping a dark secret that she is in the middle of when she uncovers the true history of her bloodline.
A movie that plays off of numerous tropes of old-school gothic horror films with the promise of a romance in between. While the movie never goes full Twilight, the biggest thing working against “The Invitation” is that the film struggles to find its own identity. The film takes bits and pieces from other popular movies that you’ve seen over the years and mixes them into a pot, back in the day the film still tastes like other movies rather than its own.
“The Invitation” takes a lot of inspiration from films such as “Get Out” in a story that follows the line of warning people of color about rich white families. The film even has his own Sassy black best friend sprinkled into the film for nothing more than comedic relief, despite the fact there’s nothing funny about the character itself.
Another film that will draw a lot of comparisons is the 2019 film “Ready or Not”, which has a similar setup of a woman going to meet a rich powerful family to be married only to discover that the family has occult origins. Here you have a movie that decides not to go down the route of the supernatural ghosts and demons instead it tells the story about a historic bloodline of vampires.
The story has two distinct problems. You have a protagonist who is put into a fish-out-of-water situation yet turns a blind eye to many of the red flags around her because of the good-looking Dracula-like vampire. On the other hand, you have a story that drags out the obvious twist of the family’s evil Origins because when you look at that meat and potatoes, there isn’t a lot of stuffing in the story.
The film distracts you with a giant house that gives evil Downton Abbey vibes to make up for the lack of story. The setting makes for some great exterior shots but removed from the manor, the interior of the film is shot in the dark where it’s hard to see the fine details of the house as the movie is trying to hide the shadowy figures in the story.
The acting has a solid number of performances that are over the top but are entertaining with the tone of the story. Nathalie Emmanuel and Thomas Doherty are fine actors; they are just not given much to go off in the writing. If the writers overplayed their hand in a big way by thinking that this film was going to breathe life into a sequel. If you’ve watched the trailer then you’ve pretty much seen the entire film.
“The Invitation” comes off as a film that is an unfinished idea. Despite having a solid run time, the film could have cut out 10 to 15 minutes of foreshadowing to get to the point. A film that is made for streaming and not movie theaters, “The Invitation” is a cheesy unoriginal Frankenstein’s monster of a bunch of other movies you have already seen before.