Director: Jessica M. Thompson | Script: Blair’s Butler | Cast: Nathalie Emmanuel (Evie), Thomas Doherty (De Ville), Alana Boden (Lucy), Stephanie Corneliussen (Viktoria), Hugh Skinner (Oliver), ea | Time to play: 105 minutes | Year: 2022
Evie takes a DNA test. Not just for fun, since she recently lost one of her parents for the second time and there doesn’t seem to be many other relatives around her. She soon after receives a message from her, apparently she is a relative of wealthy Brits who are dying to meet her. They insist that Evie attend a wedding at her estate. It soon turns out to be a mess, but she gets distracted by the owner of the house, with whom the spark really spreads.
The location is called New Carfax Abbey, so connoisseurs of the classics can already catch a glimpse of the storm. And everyone else too, if you’ve already seen the trailer, which reveals all the mystery. However, the slow buildup in the first half can be greatly enjoyed. The invitation. The opening shot is a typical old English country house at night, with lightning visible in the distance. A beautifully executed cliché that immediately communicates that this is a tribute to the genre.
To keep new fans happy, the underlying tension is sometimes injected with a few modern touches, like easy scares. Some will look down on it as a break from normal style, for others it will be a successful mix of old and new. Also, all the familiar elements are present: strangely behaving servants, that one room no one is allowed to enter, the warning not to leave the room at night, and the sinister interior. In The invitation everything is very well chopped.
There are also some own ideas. Like a scene in a spa where a manicurist is portrayed in a fast-paced and exciting way. The fact that Evie lets strange events slide so easily detracts from the strength of her character. She sees a creepy figure crawling through her room at night, but the next day, talking to the man who shares her DNA calms her down.
Halfway through the film there is a cover, unfortunately negative. Evie finds out literally everything that happens over dinner, and from then on the quality of the script drops and some of the actors start skipping. It’s no longer about atmosphere and mystery, just tension and escape.
Here too, Evie again doesn’t make the smartest decisions, but the bottom line of the movie is that she is a powerful woman one should not waste time with. And that while we had just watched an entire movie that is easy to mess with. Nathalie Emmanuel plays well (Missandei in game of Thrones), but that does not save the group from the weak second half.
It’s nice that the creators put so much love for the genre into their product, but some of that energy could have been better spent on developing the script. It’s still true that a bad ending can ruin an entire movie. That’s not too bad, but it seems like the writers knew what to do while they could still play the borrower and they caved in when it went off on its own.
The invitation can be seen in Netflix.