Vampires have had a commanding presence in the movie world for decades. It’s been quite a while since a major vampire flick has been released, and now two have managed to hit the big screen in the same year; one being Morbius based on the Marvel Comics Spider-Man villain, and The Invitation, which is inspired by the classic Dracula by Bram Stoker. Morbius was a pretty rough watch, but what about The Invitation? Does it live up to the great novel that inspired it, or does it lack anything to sink one’s teeth into?
The production design and the design of the film are both tremendous. The English manor set is beautiful but can be creepy at times. The set captures the tone of the film quite nicely. The garden decor during one of the dinner parties is especially impressive. The statues that impact the plot throughout the movie look incredible. The costumes seen throughout, whether they’re the lavish dresses, the suits that look like they were grabbed straight from the Victorian era, or even the masquerade masks that are very briefly used, are all stunning. They, too, set the feel of the film quite nicely.
The actors bring their all and give positively killer performances. Nathalie Emmanuel shines in the leading role while Thomas Doherty succeeds as a devilish villain. The script isn’t very good, which must have been difficult to work with, but the actors all pull it off with flying colors. They genuinely bring a lot of emotion to an otherwise bland film.
The Invitation is far from the most exciting movie, but it’s hard not to feel oneself fighting for Evie, the protagonist, as the story unfolds. Being concerned for what happens to her and rooting for her to win in the end holds the emotional weight of the film, and is just enough to hold attention for the entire runtime.
There are also a few satisfying moments that occur here and there. There are cheer-worthy moments, like Lucy stands up to Viktoria or when Mrs. Swift helps to protect Evie. These scenes make the torment Evie goes through at least somewhat worth it.
Perhaps where The Invitation shines the brightest is with its themes regarding social class and male privilege. We’re shown how the upper class looks at the working class as expendable and beneath them. They don’t treat them like people at all, and only use them to serve a purpose. Walter is a man in power who makes sure to have a full collection of three wives, but the villainous families see that Evie is able to fend for herself more than they’d like. The themes are fantastic and they’re presented well with a horror twist to them, which is fairly impressive.
One of the worst offenses any piece of entertainment can commit is being boring. The Invitation is almost entirely a snoozefest. The first half, which has absolutely nothing happening, feels incredibly long. By the time the film introduces any sort of vampire plot, there’s no longer a reason to care. Most audiences would completely lose interest by the time anything interesting happens. Once the movie does fully become a horror story, it’s still not very interesting outside of a couple of moments. It’s not very scary or suspenseful.
The prologue scene to introduce the film is edited so rapidly that it feels like a trailer for a coming attraction is playing instead of the movie. It genuinely made it confusing to know the movie had started when seeing it on the big screen. In an introduction that’s meant to introduce backstory, set the tone of the film, and set expectations for the audience, it’s really unfortunate how much of a mess this scene is.
The lighting is far too dark in certain scenes. It’s annoying trying to figure out what’s happening on screen. There are jump scares that occur that are difficult to make out, which severely lessens their impact. Instead of feeling scary, they just feel extra lame since they’re so hard to see.
On top of how un-scary much of the film is, the big, blood-sucking twist that there are vampires comes across as silly rather than terrifying. It’s so sudden after the long, boring nothing of the first half that it’s actually quite hilarious. There are plenty of other instances of unintentional humor throughout, like a character comically lunging at Evie to suck blood off her finger. Perhaps if the movie contained more unintentionally funny moments it would be more entertaining, but unfortunately it’s only a few moments throughout while the rest of it is bland.
The Invitation is overall just a lot of nothing. There are some decent parts and it does offer some good ideas, but it’s mostly just lame. It’s nice to see a new take on vampires in a modern movie, but the few redeeming elements don’t make up for how dull or silly it otherwise is. This one’s worth missing, but hopefully vampires can be used for great movies again sometime very soon.