‘The Invitation’ highlights awkwardness of social dinners through sound

If you were to go through my Netflix feed you would see a collection of horror films, most of them bad, but every now and again there’s a true gem in the mix. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bad horror film every now and then, but nothing can quite replicate the feeling of watching a genuinely well done horror film; and “The Invitation” is genuinely well done. The music score, the cinematography, cast and overall plot work in a great state of harmony for the film, but even individually boast their own chops. Let’s break it down.

Music is a mood setter for any film, but it’s especially important for horror. Without the right musical score to establish the tone of a scene, even something truly horrifying can seem stupid or even comical. The opposite works in this case, where Theodore Shaprio’s minimal yet fevered score creates a visual and audio tension. What may seem ordinary as a dinner party sounds unsettling and sinister underneath, which, in its own way, feels somewhat meta. But more on that later. What’s important to remember is the music is somewhat scarce, but when it’s there, you really feel the effect.

The cinematography boasts similar artistic skill. As a film that centers heavily around concepts of loss and grief, the camera makes especial use of close shots and medium shots, emphasizing the emotions and dialogue of the characters over the actions of the scene. Combined with a heavy saturization throughout the film, much of it feels very personal, albeit lurid and overly open. It makes the details matter, the little ways something is said or the small repetition of phrases or patterns that would seem otherwise insignificant.

And that’s again where much of the film shines: in making something insignificant out to be insidious, dangerous. The cast pulls this off phenomenally well. Comprised of somewhat unknown or at least not immediately recognizable cast, the characters waver somewhere between “Wow this is really uncomfortable” and “Gee I don’t want to be rude by leaving.” As an audience, it’s incredibly frustrating — it’s a horror film! We know something’s off! We know something’s going to happen! But the desire to be polite outweighs the immediate feelings of discomfort. The whole cast manages to walk the line beautifully, balancing unease and consideration with nuance and believability. And while everyone involved does a great job, I feel particular accolades belong to Logan Marshall-Green as Will. Serving as a sort of audience insert, Marshall-Green is the voice that screams, “Why can’t you see something is happening?” when we, as an audience, really need someone to do that in the film.

That being said, it’s a scream not everyone hears, or rather, cares to pay heed to. As said earlier, so much of the film is balancing the fight or flight response and our compulsion to be polite, even when we feel there’s something dangerous going on. This is, in many ways, the central concept of the film, and the plot unfolds upon this notion in a way that is so slow and deliberate it is almost excruciating. But by the end, it becomes well worth it. I won’t spoil anything more, but let’s say all in all, if you need a refreshing horror flick, consider accepting “The Invitation.”