31 Days Of Streaming Horror: 'The Invitation' Smothers You In Paranoia And A Looming Sense Dread

Welcome to 31 Days of Streaming Horror. Every day this October we'll be highlighting a different streaming horror movie to help you get into the Halloween spirit. Today's entry: The Invitation (2015).

The Invitation

Now Streaming on Netflix

Sub-Genre: Simmering mystery-thriller that makes you more and more uneasy with each passing momentBest Setting to Watch It In: With a group of estranged friends during a dinner party, all while suffocating under repressed emotionsHow Scary Is It?: This is more unsettling than "scary" – although I'd argue that the ever-mounting sense of dread that nearly smothers every scene is plenty scary

Some people might label Karyn Kusama's The Invitation a "slow burn" – but I don't think that's correct. This genuinely unnerving film is more like a medium simmer rising to a rapid boil. Right from the start, with shots of the darkening Los Angeles hills, we get the sense that something is amiss here. And that feeling never lets up. Indeed, it only increases, getting worse and worse, to the point where there's so much tension radiating off the screen we can practically feel it tightening our neck muscles.

Dealing with issues of grief, forgiveness, rage, and cult-like mentalities, The Invitation invites you along to the most uncomfortable dinner party ever hosted. Constantly-frowning Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are headed to a dinner party at the home of Eden (Tammy Blanchard), Will's ex-wife. The pair divorced when the grief of their young son's death was too much to bear. Eden is now married to the far-too-polite David (Michiel Huisman), and while he greets Will with open arms, Will immediately notices something is off about this guy.

The party is attended by many of Will and Eden's old friends, most of whom they haven't seen in years. It's a reunion of sorts, and in theory, it should be a pleasant time for all. But as the night wears on, Will grows more and more paranoid. Eden seems completely out of it – drugged, even. And David keeps behaving suspiciously. Something's going on here.

Or is it? Part of what makes The Invitation so effective is the way Kusama puts us entirely within Will's headspace, thus drawing us into his paranoia. This, in turn, makes us question nearly everything. Is there something amiss here, or is it all in Will's mind – a mind still grief-stricken by the death of his son. Things only get more awkward when a mysterious guest (a scene-stealing John Carroll Lynch) that only Eden and David know arrives, and then proceeds to tell these strangers an alarming, disturbing story about his past.

Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi's script is air-tight, keeping everything close to the vest until the last possible second, ratcheting up the tension in the process. Working in harmony, Kusama, Hay, and Manfredi meticulously craft a film that makes even the mundane seem potentially terrifying – and serves as a reminder that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.