When a DNA kit connects her with a long-lost relative, a woman finds that their kind invitation to meet the rest of the family has more sinister intentions. Starring Nathalie Emmanuel and Thomas Doherty, The Invitation is a satisfying retelling of a classic literary monster with lots of gothic horror goodness along the way.
Having just lost her mother and with no other family, Evie (Emmanuel) decides to take an ancestry DNA test out of curiosity. To her surprise, she learns she has an English cousin named Oliver (Hugh Skinner). He soon visits, and while getting acquainted over dinner, he insists that she travel to England for an upcoming wedding — the perfect setting to meet all her relatives.
Several weeks later, she arrives at the stunning estate where the festivities will take place. She meets Walter De Ville (Doherty), the attractive young lord of the house, and sparks quickly fly between the two. Evie is overwhelmed by the affluence and warm welcome she’s receiving from all, finally feeling like she’s found her place.
But as the weekend gets underway, the mysterious bride and groom have not yet made their debut. Evie becomes more curious as ghostly sightings disrupt the otherwise idyllic gathering, leading her to uncover a dark secret within the family.
Directed by Jessica M. Thompson, The Invitation has the aesthetic and moody atmosphere you’d expect from a gothic horror tale. It feels reminiscent of Underworld with an air of Crimson Peak thanks to some haunting visuals and the medieval, neo-Gothic architecture of its setting.
Unfortunately, if you saw the original trailer, you’ll likely know what’s to transpire. But despite giving away most of the film, the movie itself is rather entertaining. It’s largely due to the two compelling leads who have fabulous chemistry. They make it quite delightful to watch their courtship, even though you know it’ll take a dark turn.
The only thing the film feels like it’s missing is a level of dread. There are some clever visual tricks with perspectives and darkness, but overall it’s fairly tame. In the end, I wished it had pushed some of the frights a bit more. Since everything revolved around a wedding, it’ll surely remind you of Ready or Not, though it doesn’t quite have the ferocity that that film had.
[slight spoilers below]
Now, if you watched the trailer, you were quickly clued into this film being about the vampiric icon of all icons, Dracula. The original title was actually The Bride, which perhaps would have made it even more obvious that the plot was leaning toward his three brides. But despite that piece of predictability, the film is even more enjoyable as you start to notice the various subtle—and not-so-subtle references—to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Although a modern retelling, The Invitation has a great style that fits well within the subgenre and source material. It’s evident that Thompson and writer Blair Butler were passionate about honoring the legends and myths while adding some new flair to their creation.
The Invitation is currently streaming on Netflix