THE INVITATION (2016)
Director: Karyn Kusama
Notable Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lindsay Burdge, Jordi Vilasuso, Mike Doyle, Jay Larson, John Carroll Lynch, Karl Yune, Toby Huss, Michelle Krusiec, Marieh Delfino
This review will seem irrelevant to the experience that The Invitation gives its audience. While there is a love it or hate it kind of approach to this film, which I have been so graciously made aware of, this is a film that is meant to be experienced and its slow burn abilities ensure that. There is an overpowering sense of unease that bleeds into a paranoia which impeccably drives the narrative, punctuated by phenomenal performances and an atmosphere of complete engagement with the audience. The setting, the lighting, the score, the pacing - they are all lavishly simple and viciously effective in their execution from director Karyn Kusama and I was engrossed from the opening scene until the hollowing climax with one of the best final visuals I have seen in horror all year. The Invitation is one of those films that simply takes its simple idea and layers it so densely with subtle details that I was easily drawn into its melodramatic tones and huge credit has to be given to the film for that.
Granted, The Invitation is not a film for everyone. As I mentioned, I had a lot of horror fans on social media and in person explain to me why they couldn’t stand the film – mostly for all the same reasons that I gave as reasons I thought that it was phenomenal. If one is unable to seamlessly integrate oneself into the atmosphere of the film, it will not work for them. The film can easily become predictable, slow, and dragging in its pace. However, The Invitation was a film that nailed all those things for me to become a suffocating experience of paranoia that ably navigates a lot of complicated subject matter like loss, coping, and the connections people craft between each other – whether they want to or not. Therefore, The Invitation remains one of the best films to arrive in 2016...no matter what genre.
WHAT WE BECOME (2016)
Director: Bo Mikkelsen
Notable Cast: Troels Lyby, Mille Dinesen, Mikael Birkkjaer, Marie Hammer Boda, Benjamin Engell, Therese Damsgaard, Diana Axelsen, Rita Angela, Ella Solgaard
Yet, perhaps the most unique thing about the film is the structure. It builds its story and characters for almost an hour of its hour and twenty minute run time, only to deviate from it for one scene before the finale. The finale is plenty of zombie goodness, although simplistic, but it almost wraps up most of the plotting too quickly. This is where it gets interesting because I say MOST of the plotting, not all of it. The end of the movie leaves some significant threads hanging and the way that the title pops back up would indicate that the film ends more on a "to be continued" arc than a traditional wrap up. Like What We Become is just the humble first part of a much larger and longer story. It's fascinating. Instead of a movie, I felt like I watched the first entry of a much longer series. In a way, while it is still somewhat irritating that I felt like I was left hanging a bit, it does intrigue what the film makers have in store for this film. Here's to hoping that we get at least one sequel to it.
Directors: Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz
Notable Cast: Troian Bellisario, Bailey Noble, Caitlin Carmichael, Romy Rosemont, Toby Huss, Elyse Cole, Melissa Tracy, Kate Burton, Ever Prishkulnik
Despite the terrible, horrible, disgusted reviews that the Martyrs remake garnered from fans and critics, was it really THAT bad? The answer is no. The acting is fine, it's shot with enough artistic balance to give it a strong and even tone throughout, and its production values work for the low budget film that it is. For those that have perhaps never seen the original, it's actually a watchable film that works the premise in a much more viewer friendly manner.
However, if you've seen the original French Martyrs, then this remake is going to seem like blasphemy. This is because the film is "safe." It replaces most of the suffocating nihilism of the original with glimmers of hope and it pulls away from showing a lot of the more extreme violence. This is because it does try to change the narrative a bit from the twisting plot of the original to a more straightforward "save my friend" narrative for American audiences. The change is interesting, at least, that the film makers tried a new approach, but it's not nearly as dynamic and it waters down the themes and style that made the original such a shocking and impactful film. Ultimately, that was easily the big selling point of the first film and with this remake lacking those than it seems a mediocre torture film.
As a huge fan of the original, this film is too safe and the changes they made to the writing and tone undermine the experience that came with the first one. This film is still decent on the surface with its execution, but it lacks the pizzazz and punch to make it stand out from the various knock offs that have flooded the market since 2008.
Written By Matt Reifschneider