If it looks like a cult and sounds like a cult, it’s probably a cult in Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, a psychological thriller about grief and loss. The movie takes place in the Hills of Los Angeles, at the home of a record producer and his wife, who have recently returned from Mexico, where they have been rehabbing with a guru. To reconnect after their prolonged absence, they invite their friends to a dinner party. Then, slowly, things get weird: an airy-fairy remark about pain followed by a slap, a bottle of unmarked pills, an inappropriate game, an off-putting video. The Invitation’s protagonist is a bearded hipster (Logan Marshall-Green) who has also experienced great trauma but not resorted to a guru, and thus is most skeptical of his hosts. Kusama uses flashbacks to map out the tragedy, intentionally staying obscure. Most of the The Invitation is about build-up, ratcheting up the nervous discomfort and then unwinding it, to create the slow-burn. Kusana does this well, thanks to an effective score and intimate cinematography (Theodore Shapiro scored, Bobby Shore DPed). Though some of the trendy spiritual dialogue seems excessive, the short denouement and the twist are well-worth the wait.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White