The first thing to know about “The Invitation” is that the production company behind this film, Gamechanger is an American company founded in 2013, devoted entirely to financing films by women and expanded into television and other digital content. According to Gamechanger’s website, the CEO Effie T. Brown “is broadening the fund’s scope to include projects by and about people with disabilities, LGBTQ+, people of color and YES that includes men from underrepresented communities, as well.” We don’t have any other Gamechanger movies cued up for our series at this point, but the company obviously deserves our appreciation, our attention, and our support. This movie fits right in with our series’ current focus on horror movies directed by women.
While this movie isn’t director Karyn Kusama’s first film, and not even her first horror film – she also did “Jennifer’s Body” (2009) – the timing of “The Invitation” (2015) places its director clearly into the wave of “elevated horror” films directed by women in the last ten years. Not only that, but Gamechanger’s mission reiterates the point that we have been making over the past several weeks. Studios have finally recognized not only that women make up a full half of the audience for horror movies, but that women have unique voices and visions to bring to this genre. They’re not just the “scream queens” and “final girls” anymore.
So, if you haven’t already seen “The Invitation,” I would encourage you to avoid learning too much about it before your first viewing. There are a number of surprises along the way that even well-intentioned reviewers and critiques have a hard time not hinting at even when they avoid outright spoilers. This is one of those films that benefits from fresh eyes and an open mind.
The title of “The Invitation” prepares you for the basic setup. A group of thirty-something friends who have fallen out of touch during the past couple years all get together for a dinner party to catch up and reconnect. The get-together is complicated for our protagonist, Will, by the fact that it’s being hosted by his ex-wife Eden and her new husband. Although Will has also moved on and is bringing his new girlfriend, Kira, with him to the gathering, Will and Eden still have a number of unresolved issues around the breakup of their marriage and the death of their son, which seems to have precipitated the split.
And that’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot of this movie, but you’ll quickly recognize that “The Invitation” connects to a number of the horror films we’ve already watched in our series. The issues of grief and damaged family relationships echo the issues we dealt with last week when we watched “The Babadook,” and earlier when we looked at “Hereditary.” You’ll also note that this film resonates with a couple of the other films we’ve watched together, but I’ll leave you to discover those call backs on your own.
I’m confident we’ll have a lot to discuss with this one. Enjoy!