What I'm Watching: The Invited
Today's review is for "The Invited", a 2010ish thriller starring Lou Diamond Phillips, and Trisk mainstay, Megan Ward. Let's just dive right in...
And it starts with, "Inspired by actual events," which never inspires confidence in me.
A pregnant children's author and her actor husband are moving into a new home, which just so happens to be the site of grisly deaths two years previous, and more mystical circumstances beyond even that. But hey, all those mysterious deaths the new owners don't know about sure do make it a bargain in real estate! You don't get much more classic haunted house setup than this, and has been the hallmark of some truly great horror movies. And then there's The Invited.
After the initial deaths, the first act almost plays out like a romance movie, and it comes dangerously close to dragging out too long. However, it does nicely establish the couple and their new home. Fortunately the evil spirit board gets bled on just as you want the movie to get on with things.
While the plot starts to get moving, The Invited starts shoving at us its agenda with a really religious husband, being forcefully insistent on the baby being baptised. Also, Jack flips out a bit when he sees the spirit board his wife finds, calling it evil...but okay, he's not wrong in this instance...
It gets really frustrating that it feels like the movie is preaching to the audience a lot. There's Jack's insisting on a baptism, then the whole reason this is happening is because Michelle has no faith, and that let's the supernatural forces in. Grr, argh, atheism BAD!
The movie starts off slow, but it has this weird knack of actually being surprising in its plot. For instance, it's rather shocking at how quickly the husband gets killed off, and it sets the movie off into a bit of a place where you're not sure what's going to happen next. A lot of movies would've started after he died, with the wife recovering, or he'd stick around for most of the movie to die in the final act as something to drive the plot into it's final moments, but here it plays as an inciting event, integral to the plot, that really gets the ball rolling.
While the movie does try to punctuate things early on with a few scares and sudden deaths, the start really is SUPER slow. But his movie loves making scenes *seem* Super Epicly Important with Big Loud Music.
"Why was my house so cheap??" really should be the FIRST thing you ask when you get a bargain like this, and not months later and your husband dies in a fiery wreck.
The movie's strongest thing in its favour is that constant pulling the rug out from under you. A lot of events you just *don't* see coming. It stays well within the common tropes, but then keeps mixing around the events as you'd expect them to happen. Unfortunately, the surprising events are sprinkled around a really long, boring movie.
Amidst all the horror that should be happening, the movie ramps up the drama with...HOSPITAL BILLS! And the ever looming threat of...BANK FORCLOOOOSUUUURE. Trying to build tension by having the successful writer and wife of a dead actor having trouble paying for things just rings so false, and comes off as really hollow, when ANYthing else could be happening in the house of death. It's the banality of the mundane when we should be worrying about the giant winged bat that killed your real estate agent.
On top of the boring bits, the pacing is just *really* wonky. It's like they don't quite get how storytelling should go. Plot points are dropped in at weird times, which is good! But then things are super slow, and the dramatic arcs are ALL over the place. I question if the writers even know how a story is supposed to be structured and narrative flow works.
And then in the last 20 mintues out of the blue...It's all Satan's fault!! Because the movie needs more preaching. And of course it all ends by the husband's angel appearing to Michelle so the atheist can find faith and defeat the evil. But because we have to vilify those without faith even more, she ignores the heavenly messenger, and gives in to the temptations of evil, REWINDING THE ENTIRE MOVIE, and then EVERYONE DIES.
I seriously do not know what story this movie is trying to tell. It's a haunted house movie, it's an ancient evil movie, it's a ghost romance movie...I don't know. It's all over the place with its narrative. There's demonic things around the house that pop up once or twice, but that goes nowhere. They try the classic of cleanse the house of evil, but that goes nowhere, Satan comes into the movie late in the game, but that goes nowhere. It's like the movie is just biding its time until it gets 90 minutes of stuff on the screen, and then have the atheist heathen turn down help from God, so everyone dies.
How do you pack a movie with cliche after cliche, then toss them aside, for the next idea? I literally have no clue what this movie is trying to convey, what it's story is. It's a mess of a narrative.
And on top all that, what message is this movie trying to send? I don't know, besides Atheism BAD. Which, yeah, suck my balls, movie.
As I'm sure is obvious, I don't recommend this. The acting is actually okay, and I do genuinely love that the movie just is packed with surprises. But that comes at the cost of not knowing what the hell a story is, or how one is told. So yay shocking twists and turns, but zero actual narrative to carry them. Couple that with trying to shoehorn in a religious message, and this movie is not worth the few good moments for the ensuing mess.