You’ve probably celebrated the spooky season this month by binging the best of what horror has to offer. Sometimes the best is of the campiest sort like the Scream franchise or the nostalgic like Nightmare Before Christmas or Hocus Pocus. No matter what you watch, chances are it’s not your first time seeing it. Behind all the familiar names, we found some hidden gems of horror, suspense, and thrills that you probably have never heard of. Here’s one of our hipster picks of Halloween:
by Tanner Kinney
It’s October! The scary month, the one where cosplay becomes socially acceptable and the best worst horror schlock drops in theaters. Now, I’ve never personally bought into the Halloween hype, but I love seeing people get all excited about it. I also love friendly skeletons, which are everywhere during the spoopy season. I also have friends who get really excited about Halloween, particularly about watching scary movies during the month. Back in high school, scary movie marathons were commonplace, and we’d meet up and just decide on a horror movie to watch on Netflix. Some were foreign films I didn’t understand, or horrible films like #Horror, which is a new low for films even counting those on Netflix, which for reference has all of the Sharknado films. There was one movie that stood out to me, one that turned my group of snarky wannabe film students into a completely silent, jaws on the floor, captivated audience. This film is The Invitation, the best indie thriller that you might not have seen.
Now, if you did research on The Invitation, the people behind it don’t exactly create a promising picture. Along with The Invitation, director Karyn Kusama also directed such classic films as Jennifer’s Body, and the true terror that is the live-action adaptation of Aeon Flux. In fact, the directing AND writing team is exactly the same as the team from Aeon Flux, which is truly horrifying now that I’ve learned that. The actors are also names no one would recognize off-hand that starred in roles no one would actually remember. The screenshots don’t really create intrigue either. Even just watching the opening few minutes it’s hard to see why this movie is so highly rated on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. It seems like just another movie under the horror tag on Netflix, something to pass over. But hooooo boy, you’d be missing out if you did that.
Just from the trailer you can get a fantastic idea about how the movie is without really spoiling any of it for yourself. The movie is about the protagonist and his girlfriend going to a dinner party being held by the protagonist’s ex-wife. This lavish get-together is happening up in the Hollywood Hills, so you have the elaborate decor and general eccentric attitude of a reunion between long time friends up in a posh setting to create contrast with the uneasiness of it all. There’s something clearly suspicious about this gathering, and the main character tries to put the pieces together while also coming to terms with guilt from his past. The film does a great job setting up the mystery, with plenty of clues to lead the audience in the right direction while not just spelling out what’s going on in bright neon letters. There’s genuine mystery in this film, and while that could be a byproduct of my friends and I not giving the movie our full attention during the build up, once it all was revealed we were completely floored.
The Invitation is not a movie that works on the audience’s time. It works on its own time, and allows itself to build up tension just long enough to where the audience starts to wonder if anything really is going on. This build up is probably the point in the film where normal audiences will turn it off and just say “nah screw it let’s watch Yoga Hosers, that movie DEFINITELY doesn’t look like complete trash!” DO NOT DO THAT! The payoff for the build up is entirely worth the wait, and once everything inevitably goes to hell at this lovely dinner party the movie just goes into the highest heights a thriller like this can achieve. I’m not joking when I said that my friends and I were almost completely silent throughout the final act of the movie, and we snark through anything. Hell, we snarked in the theater watching Lights Out, making what is genuinely a fantastic movie into a complete joke for ourselves. I’m especially a culprit of talking during films because I’m that guy, a complete degenerate. The Invitation shut me up. That’s how good it was. Once the movie finally ends and the true scale of what’s going on is revealed, it leaves you with a mixed feeling of both hope and despair that’s rarely seen in horror thrillers like this.
If you’re looking for a horror film to give you cheap jump scares and not much substance, you probably already turned off The Invitation within the early moments of the first act. This film is not going to make you scream with your friends and then laugh about it the next day because “OH MY GAWD DID YOU SEE THAT *insert name here* WET THEMSELVES AHAHA.” This film is going to sit you down and make you reconsider everything you know and love. The fact that the film still stands out in my mind through all the junk and trash I’ve seen in the past few years is truly a testament to how good it is. If you’re looking for a horror film that won’t necessarily scare you, but make you feel despair throughout your whole body, The Invitation is right up your alley. In fact, even if you want cheap thrills, I highly recommend you give this film a try. It might give you an appreciation for a different kind of horror. Or, you know, you could watch Little Dead Rotting Hood, which I’m sure is just a fantastic film not made by hack frauds trying to make a quick buck. Don’t actually watch Little Dead Rotting Hood. Please. For all of us.
Tanner is a Film and Media Studies major and a Digital Media minor. His Neo Yokio review won a second-place CSPA Golden Circle award for the 2017 semester. He enjoys playing JRPG’s of any variety, regardless of how obscure and strange it is. Tanner is also the host of Byte at the Movies, the premiere movie discussion live-stream.