Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Invitation, on DVD (and Opening in Brazil)

Walter De Ville’s stately New Carfax Abbey does not look very new, but if you remember who in horror fiction owned the old Carfax Abbey, you can understand why he would make the distinction. The Stoker references will continue to pop-up in Jessica M. Thompson’s The Invitation, which releases today on DVD and also opens Thursday in Brazil (Brasil).

After her mother’s death, Evie Jackson is alone in the world, except for her tiger-mom-ish best friend Grace. Then she took a free genealogy test that surprisingly told her she had a bunch of very rich and very white relatives in England. Apparently, there was a scandal with a footman, way back when. Weirdly, the Alexanders are strangely psyched to meet her. Suspiciously friendly Oliver Alexander even offers to fly her out to an upcoming family wedding.

The ceremony will be at New Carfax, hosted by their long-time family friend, De Ville (do you hear what his name sounds like?). The exacting snobbery of De Ville’s butler, Field, rubs Jackson the wrong way, but the gracious lord of the manor smooths thing over. In fact, he launches a charm offensive that Jackson does not entirely discourage. It is all pretty overwhelming for the poor orphan, especially the elegant, bullying bridesmaid, so she does not notice how many temp-maids keep getting murdered.

Real genre fans should know they can get the killings with a little more violence with VOD and DVD releases, compared to the PG-13 theatrical release. Anyone with any pop culture literacy can guess De Ville’s deal. However, Thompson devotes so much time to his courtship of Jackson, it starts to feel more like a regency romance than a gothic supernatural yarn. Also, the concessions to class warfare and gender-politics are shallow distractions that will badly date
Invitation in the years to come—“vampire at-large, women and the working-poor hardest hit.”

Nathalie Emmanuel makes a surprisingly compelling Bronte-esque final girl, but the
The Rules-derived comic relief from Courtenay Taylor’s Grace quickly grows tiresome (however, she is not wrong about distrusting men with goatees). Frankly, the film’s best villain is Sean Pertwee, as the severe Field (a play on Renfield), who will not suffer riff-raff (nor should he), far outshining Thomas Doherty’s blue-blooded blood-sucker.

Ironically, the film’s most
Dracula-like scene is the alternate ending. Some of the Stoker references work, but some contradict the spirit of the novel. Despite its low budget, Invitation looks slick, much like previous Screen Gems horror releases. This is basically gothic horror at its trashiest and sudsiest, but it is easily watchable. No great shakes, but maybe recommended for horror fans in the mood for something glossy and down-market, The Invitation releases today (10/25) on DVD and opens Thursday (10/27) in Brazil.