The Invitation and Starry Eyes are both slow burning horror dramas that despite their weaker elements are still solid and worth seeing. They both deal with how damaged people are easily manipulated into going along with concepts and ideas that are harmful to others and to themselves. Both have endings that are a big payoff, and both feature at least one character who realizes what is going on long before anyone else figures it out. I do wonder if maybe it’s California’s history with cults and violence that has resulted in so many horror films being set in that particular area. Noirs such as Chinatown also present the area’s dark side, usually hinting at evil lurking beneath.

Yet The Invitation reminds us also that evil is not so black and white, that is rests in the hearts and minds of people. They can be our friends, loved ones, relatives or people we are acquainted with. Will, the film’s haunted protagonist, understands that all too well in the end. He is cursed with figuring out the reason why his friends and him are at his ex wife’s house, a place that used to be his long ago in a different life. Too bad that he only figures it out later, and that of course the others present don’t believe him. One scene I liked was when Will is screaming in pain, only its internal. His suffering becomes tangible, present to the audience.

While this film takes too long to get going, when it finally does it has a presence that is very engaging. I often wonder if a terrible incident would be enough to push me into coming under the spell of a manipulative individual. Yet I realize that in one way or another it’s easy to be manipulated, to have the illusion of control. That’s a far more unnerving thought than any horror film.

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