The newest mystery driven supernatural horror film, The Invitation, released recently, inspired by the popular epistolary novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, published in 1897. The feature film stars Nathalie Emmanuel as Evelyn ‘Evie’ Jackson and Thomas Doherty as Walter DeVille, in a story that unfolds with transparently dangerous family secrets.

Filmed in Budapest, Hungary,the film with the tagline ‘You are cordially invited to a nightmare generations in the making,’ also stars Hugh Skinner as Oliver Alaxander, Stephanie Corneliussen as Viktoria, Alana Boden as Lucy, andSean Pertwee as Mr. Field, among others.

The story which feels like a classic Gothic horror, follows the lead character, Evie, a struggling young artist in New York City, who tries to survive by working as a server, while grieving the loss of her mother. The story takes shape when, she is given a goody bag with a DNA kitfrom an event she was catering. The test which she mails in, results with Evie suddenly being discovered by Oliver, who reaches out to her, to introduce himself as her wealthy cousin and invites her to London tomeet and unite with relatives she never realised she had.

Written by Blair Butler, the story sets the stage for a strong plot, by taking the time to introduce the characters, as Evie meets her new family who are strangely very accepting in welcoming her at the Carfax Abbey estate, in an atmosphere that feels suspicious and too good to be true.

The first act adds an intriguing sense of mystery, but with a likable lead cast, the focus stays on the chemistry on screen, between Evie and the owner of the manor, the charming Lord Walter, an aristocrat, who sweeps Evie off her feet, with his confident personality, by which she is easily taken. The lead stars, Emmanuel, popular for her roles in the Game of Thrones, the Maze Runner franchise and the Fast and Furious series films, and Doherty, popular for his role in the Gossip Girl, manage to add their experience as actors to give viewers an engaging story.

The film maintains a suspense driven momentum with smooth pacing that sets the tone for an entertaining story but becomes easily predictable halfway through, before abruptly revealing what is really happening, then going in for a rushed ending, after all the time spent on setting the stage for what looked like a budding romance.

The film fails both as a romance and as a horror, with limited jump scares, but manages to offer fans of Dracula, an arrative that creates a familiar atmosphere, with several references to the recognisable Dracula’s castle, which some fans were happy to see. While others who are new to the film, were confused by the film’s title, The Invitation which is identical to a 2015 psychological thriller of the same name by director Karyn Kusama.

The 104-minute film by director Jessica M. Thompson, was made together with producer Emile Gladstone (known for her work in 2019’s The Curse of La Llorona), working in collaboration with production companies Mid Atlantic Films, Emile Gladstone Productions, and Screen Gems. The Invitation, with distribution by Sony Pictures releasing, made with a budget of ten million dollars, managed to easily earn over 11.7 million at the worldwide box-office. The film with a PG-13 MPAA rating, for terror, violent content, some strong language, sexual content, and partial nudity, received mostly moderate to negative critic, while receiving ratings of 20 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, 45 per cent on Metacritic and 5.3/10 on IMDb.

The Invitation is an easy to watch film that starts strong, with a cast of fitting stars, but fails to live up to viewer expectations, given its rushed ending, which takes away from how it initially sets the stage. Fans of Dracula will find the film to be worth watching, given that some components, create a sense of familiarity.

By Nirupa Mohan Dore