The Invitation Director Jessica M. Thompson Watched 'Every Single Vampire Film Ever Made' For Inspiration

Don't you just hate it when you go to spend time with your newfound, wealthy, very white family at their luxurious estate in the countryside, only to learn they're all a bunch of evil a-holes who came about their fortune by immoral means? No, I'm not talking about Radio Silence's sublime 2019 horror-comedy flick "Ready or Not," I'm referring to director Jessica M. Thompson's "The Invitation," the first of many upcoming horror films inspired by Bram Stoker's classic novel "Dracula."

Missandei herself, Nathalie Emmanuel, stars in "The Invitation" as Evie, a woman who takes a trip to England to meet the long-lost relatives she never knew, only to discover they and their host "Walter" (Thomas Doherty) are not what they seem (spoiler: they have a real taste for human blood). The film began with a script by Blair Butler ("Helstrom"), which Thompson was "immediately drawn [to] because I hadn't seen a Brides of Dracula origin story," as she told The Wrap. Equally intriguing was the script's modern setting. In this case, however, the collision of present-day conveniences and centuries-old vampires gives rise to a plot that is less "What We Do in the Shadows" and more straight-faced gothic horror-romance.

With "Dracula" re-imaginings dating back a century in cinema, Thompson took it upon herself to watch "every single vampire film ever made" before starting production. Except, it wasn't to pay homage to them, but to try and avoid ripping them off as much as possible. Thompson explained:

"I didn't want to do anything that had been done. Mind you, of course, there's always going to be some overlap. Like for instance, Tony Scott's 'The Hunger' uses a lot of that blue moon lighting. And we do that as well."

The Guillermo del Toro of it all

With so many movies about blood-sucking monsters to draw inspiration from, Thompson cited one in particular as her favorite vampire film of all time. That would be Guillermo del Toro's 1993 directing debut "Cronos," an unusual but deeply-moving entry in the vampire movie catalog in that it's a horror-drama about loss, mortality, and familial love that never explicitly brings up the V-word. "I think it's a classic that's often overlooked. It has a lot of heart, which is what I love in a horror film," said Thompson.

Of course, there's no way one can talk about their gothic horror-romance film and mention del Toro without bringing up his own love letter to the genre: "Crimson Peak." Thompson voiced her appreciation for the movie as well, stating it was absolutely an influence on the look and feel of "The Invitation":

"Yeah, absolutely. Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time. I love that he gives humanity to all of his monsters. That's something that I find really compelling. 'Crimson Peak' is not probably my favorite of his, but yes, I was definitely inspired by some aspects."

With two more "Dracula"-inspired movies —"The Tomorrow War" director Chris McKay's horror-comedy "Renfield" and "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" helmer André Øvredal's historical horror-thriller "The Last Voyage of the Demeter" — scheduled to arrive within a year of Thompson's film, it will be interesting to see which of these recent, radically-different Bram Stoker adaptations ends up being the most favorably received. You can watch "The Invitation" when it opens in theaters on August 26, 2022.