First, everything you’re about to read contains spoiler after spoiler. So, if you’re planning on seeing the new vampire flick, The Invitation, stop now – then again, maybe you should actually keep reading.
I pretty much love any story containing a vampire, so it was with a huge amount of anticipation that I first told you about The Invitation back at the beginning of August. All the better that I hadn’t heard of the stars or the director as it didn’t require me to suspend any disbelief about the characters. Though the trailer took some flack on the horror forums, I thought it looked fabulous. Sony Pictures clearly didn’t skimp on the production values. And yes, it was rated PG-13, but as a fan of classic horror films, I personally don’t think an R-rated blood bath equals a fabulous movie. So off I went to see The Invitation on the night it opened. I was even excited enough to drop some coin to see it in a swanky theater with waiter service, reclining lounge seats and craft cocktails.
If you’re still reading and haven’t seen it, here’s a quick synopsis.
After the death of her mother and having no other known relatives, Evie takes a DNA test and discovers a long-lost cousin she never knew she had. Invited by her newfound family to a lavish wedding in the English countryside, Evie’s at first seduced by the sexy aristocratic host. However, she’s soon thrust into a nightmare of survival as she uncovers twisted secrets about her family history and the unsettling intentions behind their sinful generosity.
Let’s start with what was good.
The trailer did justice to the cinematography of The Invitation. It was lush and beautifully filmed, with the tropes of Dracula firmly in place. A stunning manor house in the English hills, owned by an equally stunning Lord Walter DeVille. He gob-smacks urban American beauty Evie, whose feisty NYC attitude seems like a breath of fresh air in the fusty, starch-stiff world of the aristocracy.
We know something is afoot of course. The estate is called Carfax, which if you know your Dracula trivia, is the name of the abbey Dracula purchased in England via Jonathan Harker. Evie’s new “family” seems strangely scarce during the day, but they sure know how to throw a breathtaking party when the sun goes down. Does Evie end up bedding the gorgeous Walter? You bet she does. And even though we know in our hearts that this man is likely sucking the blood out of the servants who keep going missing, we can’t help but think up to now, that maybe vampirism isn’t such a bad deal after all…
Turns out, there are three families who have served Lord DeVille throughout his long, long life. These families have prospered through their association with the Lord, and each provide him with a “bride” to keep him company. The bride from Evie’s family line had a scandalous affair with a footman before becoming Lord DeVille’s resulting in a child who was sent away, who ultimately became an ancestor of Evie’s. These ladies are the three vampire brides of the vampire Lord DeVille. Evie’s great, great, great, great (whatever) Grandmother, recently got sick of the vampire lifestyle and beheaded herself, leaving a bride vacancy. It also happens that this family is bereft of a bloodline female to offer DeVille, which is why Evie’s creeper of a long-lost cousin was hanging around the DNA websites. Evie is the last female the family has to offer up to DeVille as a bride, rounding out the trinity and ensuring all the families will continue to prosper.
I thought all this was a fine retelling of Dracula honestly. I loved the references to the source material, including a lovely old couple who own a shop in the village by the name of Jonathan and Mina Harker. Yes, the first two thirds of the movie seemed a bit like a Hallmark Halloween holiday special, but I was still going along for the ride which was pretty fun even knowing how this was likely to turn out.
And then it all got not so good.
[Warning — spoilers ahead.]
The back third of the movie felt like someone said, “Okay folks, we have to wrap this up. We only have the castle for two more days” or something. Evie quickly learns she’s not only expected to become DeVille’s undead bride, but she’s meant to share him with two other women and join them eating the servants. Evie is naturally grossed out by the whole thing and the movie rushes to a conclusion with her laying waste to the entire vampire nest, including the Lord DeVille. The long, long lives of the undead are dispatched with incredible speed and Evie is saved.
It might not have been as disappointing had it not been so abrupt. One moment Evie is in a wedding dress and the next moment everyone is dead (really, finally dead) and the lights are coming up.
It felt like someone spent over an hour cooking me a fabulous meal, placed it in front of me and after a couple of bites, the waiter whipped it out from under my fork and it was gone.
Not only that, but the last few minutes of the film show Evie and her best friend, stalking the human gentleman who posed as her cousin (a sort of Renfield character), with intentions of killing him. This really left a weird taste in my mouth. Evie was the nice girl saving herself from the vampires. And though cousin Oliver wasn’t exactly an upstanding guy for tracking her down and serving her up to be eternally undead, Evie is apparently now poised to kill a human even though all the vampires are gone.
I would say if you haven’t yet seen The Invitation, save it to stream. Its worth watching if you don’t expect much which in the end is the most tragic thing of all. It had so many good things going for it, but in the end, didn’t fulfill its promise.