The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - THE INVITATION | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - THE INVITATION

New to Netflix - THE INVITATION
An American travels to England to meet her relatives, only to uncover sinister goings on.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jessica M. Thompson

Starring: Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Hugh Skinner, Sean Pertwee, Courtney Taylor, Alana Boden, Stephanie Corneliussen

the invitation poster

Every good Dracula movie has that iconic moment where the camera dollies into the vampire as he announces himself with the words "I am…Dracula." But The Invitation isn't a good Dracula movie. It's not even a mediocre Dracula movie. I'm not sure it's even a Dracula movie. The Count's name is never actually uttered, but the movie is set in Whitby, and in the grounds of "New Carfax Abbey", and there are characters called Jonathan Harker, Lucy and Mina. There's a butler played by Sean Pertwee whose name is "Mr. Fields," so he's clearly meant to be Renfield, but that name never gets mentioned either - The Invitation is the Pro Evolution Soccer of Dracula movies. This is baffling, as the intellectual property of Dracula exists in the public domain, meaning that anyone can make a Dracula movie if they so wish, and many have through the decades. The Invitation is a Sony production, and my best guess is that the studio came to a gentlemen's agreement with Warner Bros - who have been trying to reboot Dracula recently, along with producing a Renfield movie – not to use the Count's name. They could have at least pulled the old Count Alucard trick.

the invitation review

The wealthy vampire who resides in New Carfax Abbey and who definitely isn't Dracula, and let's hear no more of such crazy talk, is Walter (Thomas Doherty), a dashingly handsome cad, as vampires tend to be. The invitation of the title is granted to working class New Yorker Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) in the clumsy form of a DNA test left in a bag she swipes from her catering job. How did Drac…sorry, Walter know she'd take the bag, let alone go ahead and do the DNA test? Stop asking such uncomfortable questions smartass. Anyway, the mixed-race Evie learns that she has very rich and very white relations in the English countryside, and one of them, cousin Oliver (Hugh Skinner, channeling Reginald Denny, I say old chap and all that), just happens to be in NYC on business. Evie meets up with her newfound toff relative, who insists she travel to Whitby for a wedding on the grounds of Carfax, which definitely isn't Dracula's gaff and bears only a coincidental relation to the mansion mentioned in Bram Stoker's novel.

Cynical at first, Evie gets off on a bad footing with the Abbey's butler, who definitely isn't Renfield, when she stands up for the servants he's being a condescending git towards. Maybe this family reunion was a bad idea. But when hunky Drac…Walter shows up, Evie changes her mind and starts playing with her hair. It's not long before any feminist principals Evie might have possessed go out the window as she allows Walter to turn her into his plaything, dressing her up in lavish gowns and deciding she will be his bride, regardless of her own opinion on the matter.

the invitation review

Initially it seems The Invitation might be a feminist riff on Get Out, with Evie lured into this patriarchal realm, but Evie is such a shallow and superficial character that this notion is completely undermined. Before travelling to England, Evie puts on a front about how she's not going to be seduced by this world of privilege, to which her obligatory sassy black friend (Courtney Taylor) nods in agreement. But she's barely in the door of Carfax when she begins to fall in love with this world of wealth, and her attraction to Walter seems based merely on his looks and his bank balance. It's very hard to care about Evie's predicament as she seems like she might be quite happy to become the immortal bride of a rich, handsome bloodsucker.

The Invitation was likely never going to be a great vampire movie, but it had the potential for campy fun. Unfortunately it's a wavelength director Jessica M. Thompson - whose only previous credit is 2017's The Light of the Moon, a very serious drama about sexual assault – never tunes into. The movie is criminally bland in its visuals – any cinematographer who lights a Gothic horror in teal and amber should be walled in a dungeon – and the dull aesthetic is matched by the one-note performance of Emmanuel, who to be fair, is saddled with a one-dimensional protagonist. Only Danish model Stephanie Corneliussen seems to understand what type of movie she's really in. She plays one of Drac…Walter's jealous brides and has an absolute blast vamping it up.

the invitation review

Dracula has always been an anti-establishment figure, a symbol of social and sexual liberation, so to turn the Count into a metaphor for British imperialism is to completely miss the point of Irish literature's most famous creation. Much of the fun of Dracula movies comes from seeing the Count weasel his way into the British aristocracy and cause chaos from within ("He's in the house!" and all that). This cheap subversion in an effort to score timely talking points will have Dracula turning in his grave.

The Invitation
 is on Netflix UK/ROI now.