Drafthouse Films Spotlight: Two Cents RSVP’s for THE INVITATION


Two Cents
Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

2000’s Girlfight served as an announcement not only for star Michelle Rodriguez (who drew roles for both The Fast and the Furious and Avatar due to her performance in the film) but for writer-director Karyn Kusama. For her feature debut, Kusama won the Director’s Award at that year’s Sundance Film Festival and was immediately pegged for big things.

But Hollywood has a way of bending even big things into the dirt. Kusama’s Æon Flux was re-shot and re-cut by the studio and heavily panned before opening to terrible box office. Her follow-up, Jennifer’s Body, had the misfortune of being caught in the crossfire of twin backlashes against writer Diablo Cody and star Megan Fox. Over a decade after such a remarkable debut, Kusama had only two widely disliked box office failures to show for it.

And then…The Invitation.

Depicting a dinner party that goes very, very, very wrong over the course of a long evening, The Invitation left audiences shocked and speechless by the time the credits rolled. A bullet of suspense and craft, The Invitation reminded anyone who laid eyes on it just why Kusama is a major voice in modern cinema.

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:

As Marvel fans wait with bated breath for Civil War to hit Blu-ray next week, we’re going to revisit our own. Set in the latter part of the US Civil War, The Keeping Room find three Southern women – two sisters and a slave – defending their homestead against a pair of Union soldiers. We can’t wait to watch this acclaimed new western, written by and starring women.

Here’s the deadline schedule for the rest of this month’s Drafthouse Films Spotlight. All of these titles are currently available streaming on Netflix:
9/15 – The Keeping Room
9/22 – The Final Member
9/29 – The Look Of Silence

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co!

Our Guests

Jaime Burchardt: What did The Invitation do to me? It made me get off my freaking couch, stand, and gasp. I’ve been hearing about this one for months, but I never heard more than the very general plot line. I went into this knowing virtually nothing about the full story, so I consider myself lucky but even if you see it knowing a thing or two, you will still be unprepared. Director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Jennifer’s Body) bends and maneuvers the ideology of atmosphere into something that feels new, and terrifying. Working with a tight & smart script, a stellar cast (featuring a stellar performance by Logan Marshall-Green) and a career-best score from Theodore Shapiro (seriously, had no idea he had it in him), The Invitation is the best film Kusama has given us, and she’s set the bar for the modern thriller genre. See this film immediately…or wait till October 11th when I see it again for my Horrorfest! #shamelessplug (@jaimeburchardt)

The Team

Justin: Last night I watched Session 9 and The Invitation because I apparently hate sleeping. I’ve always found Session 9 to be horrifying and last night’s viewing was no different. Despite hearing that The Invitation was tense and had an all-timer type of ending, I somehow decided that it was the proper way to wash down the psychological terror of Session 9. Boy, was I wrong.

Despite drastic thematic differences, both films preyed upon some of my deeper fears through the presentation of well-crafted thrillers about what humans are capable of when they are not in control of their own thoughts.

The Invitation is a film built on an ever growing sense of dread. It hits hard because you can empathize with the deep emotions of the characters, as well as the sense of fear building in the film’s protagonist. While the turn of events is not wholly unexpected, it unfolds in the perfect way to unnerve the viewer.

And… then… that ending. Goddammit! This is a truly affecting film and I’ve been unsettled now for nearly 24 hours. Yet, as a horror fan, I wouldn’t want it any other way. (@thepaintedman)

Frank: The beauty of The Invitation is how it dares to venture into the many different realms which comprise a thriller. There’s the always-ripe set-up consisting of a group of people gathered together in a large house which keeps them from the outside world as well as the notion of not being able to trust anyone around you and the overall question of sanity. At the center of all of this is a main character whose dark past dictates that he may not even be able to trust himself, calling into question the idea of whether this is a tale of suspense or outright paranoia. None of this would come off the way it does without such a great ensemble of some of the most dependable character actors in the business, including Mike Doyle and the eternally underused John Caroll Lynch. However it’s Logan Marshall-Green and, especially, Tammy Blanchard who have The Invitation‘s most compelling roles and play them to the hilt, further showing what solid and capable actors both of them are. Helping all of this along are some of the most potent moments of terror seen from the genre in quite some time; all of which come courtesy of a fantastic screenplay which uses subtlety to such an advantage before amping up the tension in the most jarringly effective way possible. (@frankfilmgeek)

Elizabeth: As someone who tends to veer away from scary movies, I can’t speak to possible horror tropes that might appear in The Invitation. Even with foreshadowing and the viewer’s sense of things being “off” about this situation, the thriller surprises and stuns. The twist at the ending made me gasp (I wrote “OH SHIT” in my notes). With a diverse cast of characters thrust into this terrifying dinner party, The Invitation is deliciously creepy.

(Quoted from Elizabeth’s recent review. Read it in full HERE). (@elizs)

Jon: A slow burn thriller is usually only as good as its finale, that’s when the pieces slot together and the payoff happens. The Invitation not only nails this aspect but elevates itself by making the intense buildup so pivotal to the success of the film. It is a masterclass in crafting tension, from the script to the sound work and also how it was filmed.

The setting is a spacious house in the hills of LA but is shot in a way to instill an understandable paranoia in Will, this is after all the place where so many happy memories were made only to be destroyed by one horrendously bad one. A hazy glow permeates the interior, it feels inviting and safe but the mood is anything but. Will’s occasional forays for solitude providing a blue tinted moment of calm and reflection which deepen the emotional resonance of the bereaved father.

Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Jennifer’s Body) has made a fine return to directing after a 6 year absence. It’s not a game changer for the “dinner party goes awry” genre but is a higher class representation of blending a talented cast and tight script within a well constructed thriller.

(Jon was actually among the first audience to see the movie, catching it at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival. This is excerpted from his review. You can read it in full HERE). (@Texas_Jon)

Brendan: A shockingly effective thriller, The Invitation escalates in almost imperceptible ways. You can’t quite pinpoint the source of unease, but Karyn Kusama’s use of image and sound work together to make your teeth grit and your shirt until you just can’t take it any more. Experienced fans of horror and thrillers will probably suss out where things are heading very early on, but Kusama doesn’t run from that. She knows you know, and the more the characters claw at the truth of their situation, the closer the blow-up gets, the more she puts the screws to you. And when it does come, the explosion is even more horrifying and effective than you could have imagined. It’s work that can only be described as masterful.

Also, between this and Zodiac, never ever ever invite John Carroll Lynch to your dinner party. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin:I had seen and disliked both Æon Flux and Jennifer’s Body, so Karyn Kusama was in no way on my radar when The Invitation started turning heads. And while I wasn’t as rattled by the surprise ending as some of our other commentators, there’s no question that this is an inventive and unsettling story. As someone who’s not particularly great in social situations to begin with, I found the awkwardness of the characters’ interactions especially affecting.

I really appreciated how the film’s metered exposition worked as a gradual exploration of the characters’ pasts rather than just dumping everything on the viewers at the beginning, heightening the tension of the narrative. (@VforVashaw)

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

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the author

Brendan Foley lives in Massachusetts, where he has made a habit out of not knowing what he's doing. He'd like to make a career out of it. You can follow his ramblings on Twitter: @TheTrueBrendanF, and his ramblinger ramblings on Tumblr. Three years from now, it will be revealed that he was dead the entire time.