Mark Duplass has shown us time and time again that he’s a force to be reckoned with in the arthouse independent film scene. With movies such as Safety Not Guaranteed, The Puffy Chair, and Creep, Duplass has proven to be one of the best indie filmmakers of our generation. So when I heard he was starring in a movie alongside the amazing Sarah Paulson, I knew I immediately had to watch. And the movie doesn’t disappoint.
Mark Duplass plays Jim, a man packing up his old childhood home after his father passes away. While back in his hometown, he meets his old high school girlfriend Amanda, played by Sarah Paulson. And essentially the whole movie is them reconnecting and rekindling what they once had. It’s a very heartfelt movie, and what makes this movie are the performances. Mainly because there’s not really a script. The actors were given scenarios to follow, and through their amazing improv skills, they make a relationship that feels more realistic than most on screen romances I’ve seen. Every interaction feels organic. Every scene is so intimate and raw, that it feels like you’re spying on real people.
I can’t say much about the plot, because I don’t want to spoil too much, but this movie is full of a great deal of romance and heartbreak as we go through the day with Jim and Amanda. If you’re into romance movies, then this movie is definitely for you.
Dinner parties are inherently scary. You go, try to socialize, and end up in a corner, drink in hand, staring at your phone and desperately trying to make time move faster. It’s even more scary when you’re going to your ex-wife and her new husband’s party, with friends you haven’t seen in years. This is what happens to Will, played by Logan Marshal-Green in director Karyn Kasuma’s The Invitation. The Invitation is a master class in pacing and suspense, and shows how scary a dinner party can really get.
Getting a limited release in theaters and going straight to VOD, The Invitation went under the radar of horror releases in 2014, but once you start watching, it demands your attention. Each character is well written, and every interaction feels realistically awkward and tense as Will tries to reconnect with his past friends. Things get even stranger when Will meets her former wife, Eden (played by Tammy Blanchard) and her husband Tommy (played by Mike Doyle), and notices a strange change in her wife’s behavior. Eden’s blissful and happy, almost too happy, as her and Will share a traumatic experience that put a wedge in their relationship and sent Eden on a depressive spiral.
The night gets stranger as it goes on as more questions enter Will’s mind. The movie does a good job of creating intrigue while also giving us a sense that the strangeness of the party is all in Will’s head. Things seem out of place, but you can’t tell if Will’s paranoia is valid or not. The movie is mind bending and tense throughout, with the next word out of someone might be a bombshell to the rest of the group. The dialogue written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi is superb, and all of the performances are outstanding. The movie is even visually entertaining, with cinematographer Bobby Shore creating a sense of suspense in every shot.
The Invitation brings you in and demands you to pay attention as you try yourself to uncover what is actually happening at this party. It’s use of tension and awkwardness makes it one of the most unsettling horror movies on Netflix. Its premise is simple. Its delivery is outstanding.