In today’s anything-goes cinema, when filmmakers can explicitly show just about anything — beheadings, decapitations, Russell Crowe singing — it’s cool to see a director who understands the power of restraint.
Karyn Kusama built a buzz with indie hit “Girlfight,” then worked with two studios on a couple films that bombed — “Aeon Flux,” a misfire with Charlize Theron, and “Jennifer’s Body,” a teen-horror film written by Diablo Cody that went off the rails.
With “The Invitation,” Kusama gets back on track with a slow-burn movie that holds everything back and keeps holding some more. Tension builds in deliciously unsettling, nerve-jangling ways until the last 10 minutes or so — and the getting there is worth it, especially a genuinely haunting, brilliantly composed final shot that’ll stay with you.
Before reaching its shocking end, “The Invitation” explores coping with grief and questions of friendship and spirituality in ways that feel honest and true for each character, except you’re never quite sure whom to believe.
The entire film is set at posh Hollywood Hills home of David (Michiel Huisman) and Eden, (Tammy Blanchard), a couple that disappeared to Mexico for a couple years, leaving friends confused and bewildered.
After returning, they issue a dinner invitation to those friends, including Will (Logan Marshall-Green) — Eden’s ex — and his new girlfriend.