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MHHFF: The Invitation

Posted in Reviews

The final movie I saw at MHHFF was a small one called The Invitation. More in the vein of thriller/horror than traditional horror, The Invitation was probably my favorite film at the festival because of one main reason: it was legitimately unnerving.

It was a slow burn, really. A soft, unsteady start, with somewhat predictable turns here and there, but the film builds to a point where you don’t really know what to believe.

The Invitation follows David and his girlfriend on their way to a homecoming dinner for his ex-wife, Eden, and her new husband. The circumstances already shaky, he discovers that after their divorce – which occurred because Eden’s grief over the unexpected death of their son – the ex-wife coped with her troubles by accepting “the invitation,” and joining somewhat of a self-help cult.

Things spiral downward as David’s memories of his son flood back to him, making him increasingly unstable. And the strange actions of Eden and her husband begin to put the other guests on edge. Suspicious of the motives of Eden, David doesn’t know whether he’s overreacting to the new, more loving nature of his ex-wife, or whether her and her husband do in fact have sinister intentions.

It may have worked for me, because I let it. Even though I was expecting something “horror” in the outcome, I wasn’t disappointed even when there wasn’t anything explicitly “horror” about the whole thing. It didn’t have the mainstays of modern horror films, which kind of put it at a disadvantage being at a horror festival. It was also a slow movie, for sure, but not to a fault, and the last few minutes gave me enough excitement to make up for it.

It wasn’t horrifying. It wasn’t the most perfect thriller I’ve seen – although, I do think it was pretty effective by most standards. And it wasn’t exactly well paced in the edit. But it was strong, dark, and more serious in tone than anything else at the festival, and it worked. If not for the last few minutes, then at least for the last few frames.

There are plenty of horror movies with terrible endings – the hand comes out of the grave; the killer is in the backseat; (insert trite, “he’s not dead yet” trope here) – but the ending of The Invitation had a bit more punch. It was those final frames that made me smile, but not laugh, at the implications set by the moment. It gave me just enough information to put things together, while allowing my imagination to run wild with the visuals. I’m trying not to give anything away here, so that’s where I’m going to stop.

The Invitation is not a movie I may have chosen to watch elsewhere. It was in a time-slot that worked for me, so I gave it a shot and I was pleasantly surprised. I’d say it’s worth checking out when you get the chance, but unless it hits a few more festivals, you may have to wait until March of next year. Just don’t be disappointed if it isn’t “horror” enough. I know I wasn’t.

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