Tonight's arthouse study on distrust of strangers and human politeness comes from director Karyn Kusama, the gal who most recently brought you 2009's Jennifer's Body. Can't recall how I felt about that one and I'm too lethargic from radiation treatments to go back and see, so...chop, chop. There's been a great deal of positive internet press about this one of late, causing me to set aside whatever disdain I'd already developed towards it due to a weak, unengaging trailer I'd already checked out a while back, and give it a look. Afterall, a shitty trailer does not a dumpster fire movie guarantee.
This snob fest could use David Hess and Johnny Morghen.
Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his new squeeze, Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi...say that one five times fast), pull up outside David and Eden's (Michael Huisman, Tammy Blanchard) swanky digs in the Hollywood Hills for a dinner party, after wiping out a coyote with the car on the ride there. Eden is Will's ex-wife, who previously attempted suicide after the accidental death of their young son together. David is a fellow she took to during a grief-support group, having spent two years together away from their friends, some of which in Mexico, where the couple picked up Sadie and Pruitt (Lindsay Burdge, John Carroll Lynch) , two new age oddballs who share their bizarre notions on pain management. Besides experiencing painful flashbacks from their time together while noticing Eden hiding away a sizable bottle of pills and noticing that David has locked all the doors behind the guests. And where the hell is Choi, anyway? He should have been here by now.
If a hipster hides in a high end joint, would anyone bother to find him? David pops in a promotional video for a group called 'The Invitation' that deals with pain and grief on a spiritual hippie level, as evidenced by footage of the head kook talking a dying woman through her final moments of life. If that hasn't weirded out enough guests, a parlour game of 'I Want' turns into Pruitt's impromptu confession of having accidentally murdered his wife. Will's suspicions are temporarily put to rest when Choi finally does show up, but then there's that pesky laptop, left open to files concerning 'The Invitation' and their true motives, just waiting for an inquisitive partygoer to stumble across while sneaking about the place. Don't drink that wine! Instead, pass it this way so I can put myself out of my misery. I've seen scarier episodes of Quantum Leap, ferchrissakes. "Mexican suicide cults are all the rage these days. Join one, reaaaally you should."
In the arthouse world, you'll find two approaches to cinema, more often than not. One is overly excessive, the other is purposely minimalist. Either can make for an effective film, if utilized properly, with heaping doses of self-awareness and artistic flair, but I can't help thinking that tonight's movie might have served itself better had it chosen the former instead of the latter. For a film that many are calling "one of the best horror movies of the year", there really isn't any horror to speak of. The script is smart, the cinematography is excellent, and there's some tension early on, but the plot reveal is obvious a lot sooner than it ought to have been, and the pay off is weak and shockless. Interesting, but rarely engulfing. Worth a look for those aforementioned elements, but ultimately forgettable. You could have had something here. Two wops.
In distress? Or just yawning. I think we know the answer.