Combustible Celluloid
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With: Logan Marshall-Green, Michelle Krusiec, Aiden Lovekamp, Mike Doyle, Jordi Vilasuso, Marieh Delfino, Jay Larson, Tammy Blanchard, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michiel Huisman, Lindsay Burdge, John Carroll Lynch, Toby Huss, Danielle Camastra
Written by: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Directed by: Karyn Kusama
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 100
Date: 04/08/2016

The Invitation (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Guest to Kill

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This shocker of a thriller is an intelligent, atmospheric slow-burn that spends its early moments on interactions and emotions, avoiding obvious exposition or setups. Logically, anything can happen.

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) drive toward a dinner party and accidentally run over a coyote, which sends a foreboding chill over the evening. They are headed to the home of Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and David (Michiel Huisman). We learn that Will and Eden once had a son, but that a tragedy took him away.

Two years have passed and Eden has been out of touch with Will and her friends, spending time in Mexico with a kind of cult, learning how to handle her pain. After watching a shocking video about their beliefs and practices, Will begins to think that something terribly sinister is afoot, but he can't quite get a handle on what it is. Could his own grief be distorting his reason, or are his dark feelings correct?

Actor Marshall-Green anchors the first part with his watchful, soft-spoken performance, dealing with pain and suspicion in equal measure. His character Will has re-entered his old house for the first time in two years, and flashbacks with his son are appropriately heart-rending, placing him perfectly off-balance from the rest of the characters.

Director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Aeon Flux, Jennifer's Body) uses the house as a vivid character, with muted lighting and clever staging to subtly highlight conflicts. Two outsiders (played by John Carroll Lynch and Lindsay Burdge) are also ingeniously placed to brilliantly tense effect. A brutal climax upsets the mood ever so slightly, bringing The Invitation closer to a standard horror pic, but an eerie coda more than makes up for it.

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