By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Smart, emotional thriller with violence and a creepy cult.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Reminds us that people have different ways of dealing with grief and that there's no real right way or wrong way to do it (unless, of course, that way includes killing people). It's also a warning against cult mentality.
Positive Role Models
Will seems brave and clever, he speaks out when things don't feel quite right, and he keeps his wits about him when everything starts to fall apart. But he's mostly just an ordinary guy trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Violence & Scariness
An extremely gory climax, with shootings, stabbings, poison, fighting, and struggling; many characters die, and bodies are seen. A woman falls and smashes her head into a table. Lots of blood. A car runs over a coyote, and it must be killed (bashed with a tire iron off screen). Disturbing story of a man punching and killing his wife.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A woman naked from the waist down is seen in the shadows, briefly glimpsed. Man and a woman shown in a bathtub, kissing. Woman's breasts briefly seen. Same-sex and opposite-sex kissing. Brief sex talk. Blow job reference.
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Not frequent, but several uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," and "a--hole," plus "Jesus" (as an exclamation).
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Wine at a dinner party. Some whisky. Bottle of pills (barbiturates) shown. References to cocaine. Reference to a recovering cocaine addict.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Invitation is a thriller with some bloody/gory, horror-style scenes. There's lots of fighting, punching, bashing, shooting, and stabbing, with plenty of blood and many dead bodies. A coyote is run over by a car and must be put out of its misery (it's bashed with a tire iron off screen). A man and a woman are seen in a bathtub, with her breasts briefly visible; a woman who's naked from the waist down is also briefly glimpsed in the shadows, and there's both same-sex and opposite-sex kissing. Language isn't constant but does include "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole." Characters drink socially throughout the film, and cocaine and pills are shown and/or referenced. There are positive representations of a gay couple and an interracial couple. Ultimately this is a smart, well-made thriller that should provide food for thought for mature viewers.
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What's the Story?
Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) drive to a dinner party and accidentally run over a coyote, which sends a foreboding chill over the evening. They're headed to the home of Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and David (Michiel Huisman). We learn that Will and Eden once had a son, but that a tragedy took him away. Two years have passed, and Eden has been out of touch with Will and her friends, spending time in Mexico with a kind of cult, learning how to handle her pain. After watching a shocking video about the group's beliefs and practices, Will begins to think that something terribly sinister is afoot, but he can't quite get a handle on what it is. Could his own grief be distorting his reason, or are his dark feelings correct?
Is It Any Good?
This shocker of a thriller is an intelligent, atmospheric slow burn that spends its early moments on interactions and emotions, avoiding obvious exposition or setups. Logically, anything can happen. Marshall-Green anchors the first part of the movie with his watchful, soft-spoken performance, dealing with pain and suspicion in equal measure. Will has re-entered his old house for the first time in two years, and flashbacks to time with his son are appropriately heart-rending, placing him perfectly off-balance from the rest of the characters.
Director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Aeon Flux, Jennifer's Body) uses the house as a vivid character, with muted lighting and clever staging to subtly highlight conflicts. Two outsiders (played by John Carroll Lynch and Lindsay Burdge) are also ingeniously placed to brilliantly tense effect. A brutal climax upsets the mood ever so slightly, bringing THE INVITATION closer to a standard horror pic, but an eerie coda more than makes up for it.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about The Invitation's violence. How does the movie use it to escalate the plot? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
How is sex used in the story? In what scenes does it appear to be connected to love, and in what scenes is it used for something else? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships?
What are some of the ways that a person can mourn and deal with the death of a loved one? Can you think of movies that address this topic in other ways?
What is a cult? Why are they attractive? Why are they scary?
- In theaters: April 8, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: July 26, 2016
- Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Tammy Blanchard
- Director: Karyn Kusama
- Inclusion Information: Black actors, Latinx actors
- Studio: Drafthouse Films
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 19, 2023
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