Review: The Invitation (2022)

Directed by Jessica M. Thompson and written by Blair Butler, after the death of her mother and having no other known relatives, Evie takes a DNA test and discovers a long-lost cousin she never knew she had. Invited by her newfound family to a lavish wedding in the English countryside, Evie’s at first seduced by the sexy aristocratic host, however, she’s soon thrust into a nightmare. Starring: Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Sean Pertwee, Hugh Skinner, Carol Ann Crawford, Alana Boden, Stephanie Corneliussen, Tian Chaudhry and Courtney Taylor.

In a world with countless vampire films, how do you make one that stands out? It’s a question we should be asking Jessica M. Thompson and Blair Butler because they clearly know the answer. Starting with Butler’s writing which embraces the curiosity of modern existence, its naivety and desire for financial freedoms. Firstly, one of the things that goes so right here but often so wrong with others, is the ratio of time spent building the story versus letting loose its monsters. Here, they take just the right amount of time to get you comfortably uncomfortable, until you’re sure of its dark intentions, then it dives right in. The progression to the story feels like such a loving homage to classically spooky films, playing things out in a way that throws back to beloved horror while being clearly modern.

That mix of the old versus the new is a constant factor throughout The Invitation, Jessica M. Thompson’s direction feels like its tipping its hat to a lot of successful modern horror but also holds onto a classic feeling. Part of that is the setting, you can’t go wrong with a Gothically charged aesthetic, it brings a haunting and suavely bloodthirsty air. It embraces the opulent and lavish nature of its location, putting the atmosphere in a balance of confidence and ill at ease. When you look at it as a whole, it also fits very nicely into the final girl style of horror. Our heroine is in another country, with a bunch of strangers and heading into a dangerous situation, it smoothly slides into that formula, at the same time as focusing on the vampire theme.

Another reason for The Invitation’s success is having Nathalie Emmanuel at the helm, providing such an easy, relatable charm. She’s smart but trusting, naïve enough to get into the situation but not enough to let it take her down without a fight. Thomas Doherty then adds a mix of being too good looking and nice to be trustworthy, overly calm and collected, leaving you waiting for the other shoe to drop. The more surprising member of the cast here is Carol Ann Crawford, lingering between both sides and excellently portraying the emotional conflict. She becomes an interesting guide through this story, throwing up red flags along the way.

The Invitation is a refreshing addition to the vampire family, it nods to the new generation of horror while playing into the beloved classic elements. It brings that spooky factor to the table that is so often these days thrown away in favour of violence, gore or overt, loud style. The story progresses at a fantastic pace, it embraces the lavish and the Gothic, and brings through that touch of sensuality which goes hand in hand with vampiric stories. It’s entertaining, holds a great atmosphere and gives you everything what you could want out of this film.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Available now on Digital – Coming to VOD 31 October

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