The invite wears its influences on its sleeve. The film’s brooding and chilling opening prologue, which throws viewers headlong into the deserted halls of a spooky British mansion on one fateful night, sounds like something that could have been ripped from a movie. Guillermo del Toro. Its premise, meanwhile, so strikingly resembles 2019’s Ready or Not that the YouTube page of The inviteThe first spoilerific trailer is filled with commentary comparing the two films.
In a way, there’s something endearing about the fact that he’s obviously indebted The invite is to filmmakers like del Toro and modern horror thrillers like Ready or Not. But The invite also makes a classic mistake. After all, it’s commonly accepted that acknowledging your influences is only a good idea if you’re able to deliver something that still feels new and fresh. The invite can’t do either. Instead, the ambitious and overlong new film lacks the bite and thrill present in so many of its genre predecessors.
This does not mean The invite doesn’t try to bring anything new to its familiar vampire tale. Rather than adopting the point of view of its central vampires or taking place in a past version of Transylvania, The invite begins in present-day New York City and follows Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel), a struggling artist who makes a living working the kind of catering gigs that require her to navigate endlessly elite crowds rude and manipulative. However, Evie’s life is turned upside down when she takes part in a 23andMe-esque DNA testing program that reveals her ancestral connection to a wealthy family based in England.
When one of her British cousins reaches out and invites her to a family wedding, Evie flies over the pond in hopes of taking the trip to the UK she and her late mother have always wanted. do together. After arriving, Evie quickly finds herself courted by Walter (Thomas Doherty), the handsome owner of the impressive British mansion where the film’s central mysterious wedding takes place. However, as she begins to fall in love with him, Evie begins to suspect that Walter may be harboring dark and gruesome secrets.
It should come as no surprise or spoiler to say that Evie’s suspicions are true. The film’s opening flashback sequence makes this abundantly clear, but The invite nevertheless attempts to draw out all of its very obvious mysteries for as long as it can. As a result, the film quickly begins to feel too long and repetitive throughout its second act, which frequently jumps between scenes of Evie and Walter flirting with each other and stand-alone sequences in which some unfortunate victims find themselves trapped alone in rooms with mysteriously masked figures.
Director Jessica M. Thompson, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Blair Butler, tries to root out so many fears The inviterare horror sequences as possible. However, Thompson is forced to do this while keeping the identities of certain characters unknown, leading to several of the The inviteThe scariest sequences are severely underlit. This detail, combined with the actual sparseness of the film’s slasher sequences, lessens the impact of many of The invitethe scariest moments.
For her part, Nathalie Emmanuel delivers a charming and sympathetic performance as a woman at the center of The invitegothic plot, but it ultimately doesn’t have enough to do in the film. It’s because The invite chooses to spend more time developing Walter and Evie’s predictably problematic romance than her attempts to survive the terrifying situation she finds herself trapped in. Not only does this creative decision lead to many sections of The invite becoming unbearably boring, but it also prevents Emmanuel from fully exploring his character’s darker psychological places in the film’s third act.
Whether The inviteThe final section of was more visceral or satisfyingly shocking, the slow-burning nature of its first two acts might not be so detrimental to its overall quality. But The invite finally pulls its punches, delivering a climax that’s rushed and stuffed with dumps of expositional information. The film’s final resolution comes too quickly and too easily to be a satisfying reward for Walter’s prolonged seduction of Evie, and Thompson and Butler’s script refuses to indulge in the same darkly comedic violence as Ready or Not or the delightfully gothic sense of romance that Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 vampire classic Bram Stoker’s Dracula Is.
By refusing to go to the end of his own story, The invite ends up feeling like a less hectic, smoother version of the classic horror movies it so clearly wants to honor. He spends so much time dancing around his various mysteries that the movie never gets as bloody or scary as it should be. For most of its story, the gothic brutality promised by its memorable opening sequence only ever comes in brief bursts of flashing and you’ll miss them.
The contagious hysteria of the film’s prologue is only reached again during the memorable sequence of the bloody banquet which starts The invitethe third act. After an hour of buildup, the scene is refreshing and blood-soaked, but Thompson and Butler’s storyline also keeps it from degenerating into a full-fledged horror show.
The same is true for all of The invite, which looks like a vampire movie whose pretenses have been classified. It may exist in the same genre as the movies that influenced it, but it’s not sharp or effective enough to draw blood.
The invite hits theaters Friday, August 26.