Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Who Invited Them, on Shudder

In Manhattan and Los Angeles, we have progressive district attorneys, who proudly refuse to prosecute criminals. People no longer feel safe in those communities, which also happen to be major hubs of film production. Consequently, you can expect a major boom for home invasion horror, like this film. In this case, writer-director Duncan Birmingham tries to soften the blow with some gun culture criticism, but the fact remains Margo and Adam are not safe in their own home, just like the rest of LA. It is their turn to deal with the lawlessness in Duncan Birmingham’s Who Invited Them, which premieres Thursday on Shudder.

Technically, Tom and Sasha did not “invade.” They crashed Adam’s house-warming party. Margo really doesn’t feel like it is her party too. That reflects some of the fissures in their marriage the uninvited guests will exploit. After all the real guests leave, the couple pops out of the bathroom, claiming to be the next-door neighbors. They seem hip and connected, so Adam instinctively cozies up to them. Both Tom and Sasha have a knack for pushing their buttons, so for a while, it feels more like a Polanski film than
Last House on the Left. Things get super uncomfortable, but the threat of violence is not imminent (but perhaps implied).

In fact, the verbal sparring is clearly the part that interests Birmingham, because when the film reverts to the violent business at-hand, it follows the usual, uninspired, rote pattern. He also wraps it up as quickly as possible, only pausing to show a firearm wielded in a way that would disgust any actual gun owner.

Despite Birmingham’s labored efforts,
Who Invited Them still makes a persuasive case for gun ownership. There are dangerous, evil people out there, whom Angelinos have to face on their own. Of course, our DAs would offer victims the chance to face the psychopaths who duct-taped them up in group therapy “Restorative Justice” sessions, rather than sending to prison. Yet, somehow, that probably would not be much of a “healing” experience for Margo and Adam, after what they endure at the hands of Tom and Sasha.

Who Invited Them is too much of the same old thing. Ryan Hansen is as annoying as a rusty nail in a hiking boot playing Adam, which certainly counts as a strong performance. Timothy Granaderos and Perry Mattfeld are also quite creepy in a coolly predatory way as the game-playing invaders. There just doesn’t seem to be any point to it all, except to inadvertently express the zeitgeist of the lawless times.

Frankly, Birmingham cannot even be bothered to deliver any catharsis. It all just conveniently wanes into a dubious resolution. Even those who enjoy this kind of movie will be disappointed by its aversion to the sub-genre. Not recommended,
Who Invited Them starts streaming Thursday (9/1) on Shudder.