At first, the famous director Sam Raimi was engaged in the horror film “The Invitation”, and he was helped with the script by Robert Tapert, whose popular works include, for example, “Xena – the warrior princess”. But due to scheduling problems, they had to abandon the project, which was conceived as a modern reimagining of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Instead, Jessica M. Thompson, for whom The Invitation is only the second feature film in her career after the romantic drama Moonlight in 2017, was called to direct. We will tell you in the review below how successfully she managed to implement the initial idea.
“The Invitation” / The Invitation
Directed by Jessica M. Thompson
Starring Natalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Hugh Skinner
Release year 2022
The main character of the film is the girl Ivy (Natalie Emmanuel). Shortly before the beginning of the story, she became an orphan due to the death of her mother. Ivy’s father died when she was still a child. She allegedly has no more relatives. However, the girl undergoes a newfangled advanced DNA test – and it turns out that she also has a cousin Oliver (Hugh Skinner) from Great Britain. At the meeting, Oliver invites the heroine to a luxurious wedding at an estate in Britain, in order to get to know her relatives at the same time. And after her arrival, the owner of the estate – the aristocrat Walter (Thomas Doherty) – immediately draws attention to Ivy.
The film’s problems start at the trailer stage. After all, it will spoil almost the entire plot, leaving no room for imagination. This is a very strange decision in itself. After all, even the first two thirds of “The Invitation” desperately try to confuse the viewer with their genre uncertainty. The trailer kills those attempts instantly.
This is not about some kind of excessive complexity, which horror films sometimes like to attract to themselves. The authors of the film didn’t seem to know what they wanted to focus the viewer’s attention on. Until the final act, “The Invitation” tries to be horror, romance, drama and a social statement about closed communities and racial divisions within old families at the same time.
Only the romantic component can show at least something expressive from all this. But this is understandable if you remember the experience of the director. Everything else feels like too tired bustle, which does not carry any load for consciousness. Some scenes change to others without any clear intentions. Because of this, the primary emotion during most of the viewing is unpleasant surprise.
And this is surprising, considering that in the same “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, at the level of subtexts, a rather strong semantic load is hidden, at least about incest and sexually transmitted diseases. The authors of “Invitation” also seemed to want to say something similar with subtexts, but it didn’t work out.
Even the obvious trope of the modern American woman in British society, full of traditions and nuances, is very quickly forgotten here. And the aforementioned lack of expressive accents in the script is to blame for this.
The horror component, which was supposed to be the main character in the film, also suffers because of this approach. There is no truly scary moment in “The Invitation”. And in the finale, horror is replaced by action, and quite mediocre.
And therefore it is not clear to whom the film can be recommended. Lovers of romantic stories will be uncomfortable because of regular, albeit not very successful, attempts to scare. Horror fans have absolutely nothing to do here. As a reimagining of Dracula, the film just doesn’t work. As a result, the general assortment of genres turned out to be too faded to attract at least with its multifaceted combination.
The level of development of the film is perfectly characterized by just one tie. In the “Invitation” universe, there is a state-of-the-art DNA test that notifies relatives of your existence in case of need, and shows a complete family tree. Quite an unusual moment.
What is further in the plot, with the exception of one fleeting moment that does not affect the overall picture in any way, is not used. That is, the authors, trying to come up with a normal connection, came up with an overcomplicated solution that does not fit in with the other elements of the picture. And so with almost everything in “Invitation”.
The beautiful scenery of the old English castle does not have a decent content to be interesting to watch. In principle, the film looks gray and boring, let it show luxurious places. But all their brilliance comes to nothing due to weak direction.
Pros: romantic line, a combination of several different genres and tropes at once Cons: general vagueness, lack of focus on important moments, blurred script, pointless pretentiousness Conclusion:
Perhaps if Sam Raimi had stayed on the project, he would have been able to breathe fresh ideas into familiar motifs. But in the end, we got a film whose authors didn’t seem to understand why they made it. I do not want to accept such an “Invitation” at all