Best Horror Movies of the Decade: The Invitation shows the paranoia growing from grief
All this month, we are counting down the 31 best horror movies of the decade and doing a closer look at why each one earned a spot on our list!
26. The Invitation (dir. Karyn Kusama, 2015)
Trying to figure out what movies I have seen this decade, let alone which ones have been the best has been a difficult task. Even narrowing this list down just to some of the best horror has been difficult because I think we have lucked out with several gems over the past years. However, one that stuck out for me was The Invitation from 2015. This film was directed by Karyn Kusama, who also directed Jennifer’s Body (a film I need to revisit) and one of the segments in the horror anthology XX. The film also stars Logan Marshall-Green who recently starred in Upgrade, and whom I mistake for Tom Hardy on a daily basis. The film tells the story of a man named Will (Marshall-Green) who is invited to a dinner party that his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her partner David (Michiel Huisman) are hosting. Will, along with a handful of mutual friends, have not seen Eden in two years and there is tension as soon as the film starts and things become weirder and potentially hostile as their strange night unfolds.
It is hard to talk about this film without totally giving away what happens but I will try my hardest to avoid spoilers. However, this film is easily available on streaming services so I suggest putting aside an hour and forty minutes and checking it out. You learn that Will and Eden divorced after the loss of their son in a freak accident. Both of them have pulled away from their friends and dealt with their grief in different ways. Will pulled away emotionally while Eden disappears with David for a few years. The party of friends learn that they have spent about two years in Mexico and joined a cult known as “The Invitation.” Although weird, many of them write it off as a fad that rich New Yorkers and Californians are into. They try to convince the party that they learned how to deal with their grief and put away their pain. By all accounts they seem to be a pleasant and welcoming couple who offer their guests whatever they desire.
One of the things I best about The Invitation is that is slowly adds more elements to the film that really mount the tension and paranoia. As human beings, we try to explain away so much even when we are in situations that are uncomfortable. We train ourselves to mistrust our own feelings and instincts for the sake of politeness. Just the fact that they are invited to the house of people they have not heard from in years is weird enough, but more things start to be revealed. A random woman named Sadie (Lindsay Burdge) comes out from one of the rooms in the house, disrupting the close group of friends. They have no cell service and specifically cannot reach their friend Choi (Karl Yune) who should have arrived hours ago. Another friend of David’s named Pruitt (John Carroll Lynch) joins the group and shares an uncomfortable story about the death of his wife. I forgot that this was directed by Kusama and now it makes so much sense this is something as women we are taught to do a lot in our lives–especially choosing politeness over potential safety. Even as more strange elements are added to the party they explain it away or ignore it. Eden has a calm and cool demeanor for the majority of the film but in a rage slaps one of their guests and they still act like everything is fine and normal.
Will’s character especially is put through a lot that women experience. Will blames himself for his son’s death, which has made him paranoid, but also very observant of his surroundings. He watches David locking the doors, watches side conversations, and stares out the window to make sure his friend is able to leave safely. When he comments on anything throughout the night that seems uncomfortable or not right people make him out to be the one who is paranoid, or worse they use his grief and trauma as a way to explain away his feelings and delegitimize what is happening. It is easier to believe that someone is crazy than to reflect on the fact that they might be in a dangerous situation. Over and over again, different characters in the film talk to Will like he is a wounded animal as opposed to taking him seriously. It gets to the point where Will doubts his own instincts and lets other people make him feel like he is crazy. It was such an interesting choice to have the male character go through this because this sort of treatment and overall gaslighting we see a lot with women. There is a moment towards the end of the film where Will sits at the table and you watch him trying to decide if he will say something or not and watching him doubt himself–even when all signs point to him being right–was so sad to watch, yet so relatable. I wrote about this film a few years ago, comparing it to another film called They Look Like People, which came out the same year. It also deals with this sort of paranoia as well as letting men be very vulnerable with their emotions.
This film really does deserve credit for this decade because I think it is one of the best horror films that deals with paranoia recently, and although there are a huge amount of films that deal with grief from this decade like The Babadook, Hereditary, and Midsommar, this one still deserves to be highlighted in this realm of horror. With the resurgence in conversations about films like Jennifer’s Body I hope that people watch more of what Kusama has made and I look forward to watch she works on in the future. If you have read any of my other pieces here I am sure you know I love my female creatives and the opportunities out there for them in the next decade.