A new horror movie from Australian director Jessica M Thompson, The Invitation has landed in theatres. Our resident film buffs Tom Parry and Stefan Bradley went to check it out.

TP: This is a strange one… where do we even begin? I walked into The Invitation knowing almost nothing about it, and walked away having enjoyed myself, much to my surprise.

SB: Really? Because I’d say the exact opposite. This film is helmed by Australian director Jessica M Thompson, who has directed one other film, The Light of the Moon, which I haven’t seen but was widely acclaimed, so maybe that’s why I was expecting this to be better than it was.

TP: We should discuss the premise before we unpack our thoughts on the movie. Our protagonist is a New Yorker, Evie – superbly portrayed by Nathalie Emmanuel, I must say – who discovers she is descended from an aristocratic family in Britain. Upon this discovery, her second cousin Oliver (Hugh Skinner) promptly invites her to a wedding at a lush estate in the English countryside. Evie accepts, but upon her arrival, she cannot help but feel unsettled by her surroundings …

SB: I disagree about the lead, I found Evie to be not interesting at all. You learn Evie’s mother has died and she has no other family, but you don’t find out anything about their relationship that makes her character compelling or sympathetic. I also didn’t find her friend Grace (Courtney Taylor) likeable, I didn’t find her love interest (Thomas Doherty) or any of the other English characters in the mansion interesting either. The movie was boring until the third act with the big reveal; up to that point, I found the characters, dialogue and romance insufferable.

TP: I share that sentiment. Until that revelation comes around, you’re not sure what you’re watching – you ask yourself, ‘is it an episode of Bridgeton?’

SB: And all the horror elements leading up to that major scene weren’t scary at all. Bad things happen to very minor characters who aren’t established as people I should really care about. There are some great scenes of horror and tension once it finally gets going, but the first and second acts just dragged on.

TP: Agreed – I almost fell asleep watching the first two-thirds of the movie, until that big reveal woke me up again.

SB: I’m probably not the target audience for a film like this. In saying that, I’m more than up for a gothic horror romance, but this was so tedious. Thomas Doherty’s romantic scenes with Emmanuel were cringeworthy, with painful dialogue. Did you like it or not, Tom? I’m not sure where you’re at.

TP: I don’t think this is an enjoyable movie, nor an unenjoyable one, Stefan – I’d say it’s firmly in the middle, but there are elements to appreciate.

SB: Well, I didn’t like The Invitation because I was bored for most of it. By the way, I watched the trailer after seeing the movie and it spoils the entire story! So if you’re interested in this, don’t watch the trailer.

TP: If you want to support an Australian director, and you have a very keen interest in the horror genre, then go see it. Or, go see Jordan Peele’s Nope, because that’s a much better horror flick.

SB: I agree with that, you can read why we liked Nope on the Gippsland Times’ website. I’d also recommend Where the Crawdads Sing, which has much better characters and a more convincing romance.

The Invitation is rated MA15+ for strong violence, and is currently screening at Sale Cinema.