Originally titled The Bride, The Invitation is an excursion into Gothic horror that pivots around issues of race and class.
After an all-too revelatory prologue, the story begins in New York, where twentysomething Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel), a struggling artist, works as a catering waitress to pay the bills. At an event promoting a DNA testing company, Evie swipes a swag bag and takes the saliva test at home.
Feeling abandoned since the death of her mother, Evie is obviously seeking a sense of identity. Then, quite unexpectedly, she receives a message from an enthusiastic second cousin, a visiting realtor, Oliver Alexander (Hugh Skinner). As it turns out, she has a number of relatives who are all British – and white.
Oliver invites her to a three-day wedding celebration at an English country estate known as New Carfax, hosted by Walter De Ville (Thomas Doherty), for a huge family reunion. It’s an all-expense-paid trip that offers her an opportunity to meet other relatives. Although her outspoken best friend Grace (Courtney Taylor) is skeptical, Evie is obviously intrigued.
Reminiscent of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, naïve Evie is immediately subjected to racist innuendos since she’s the only guest of color. Mr. Fields, the condescending head butler (Sean Pertwee), mistakes her for a member of the staff, while a bitchy bridesmaid, Victoria (Stephanie Corneliussen), wants to touch her hair.
A Spa day for the women proves a distraction, but the masked dinner party is decidedly ominous, as is Walter’s locked library that’s definitely off-limits. Vampirism is afoot, as Evie gradually realizes she’s being positioned to be the new bride of Dracula.
Written by Blair Butler and director Jessica M. Thompson, the PG-13-rated script reveals its secrets too early and the action relies far too much on freaky jump scares.
FYI: Nathalie Emmanuel was Missandei on HBO’s Game of Thrones. And if you wait for the DVD and/or streaming, there will be more gore, violence and nudity.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, The Invitation is a creaky, creepy 4, playing in theaters but I’d advise not RSVP’ing.