Will (a superb Logan Marshall-Green) and Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are driving into the Hollywood Hills area on their way to a party hosted by Will's ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) in their former home together. Will is visibly on edge, harboring a weird sense of anxiety that comes from not having seen Eden in quite some time. Kira tries to talk him out of going but he presses on. There is a jolt of reality when they hit a coyote along the road and Will is forced to humanely euthanize the creature by using a tire iron (mostly off-screen, thankfully). It's an unlikely event that we immediately want to tuck away in our memory for later - because it really seems important to the plot. But will it be? Or is it just a red herring?
Immediately upon arrival at the home, it is blatantly obvious that something is just not cricket. Eden's new husband David (Michiel Huisman) welcomes them with open arms but makes sure Will knows it is now "his house". He ushers them into the living room where a group of Will and Eden's friends have also gathered. Eden appears and the conversation turns to how she and David have returned from Mexico with a new lease on life and explains how in touch with their emotions they are after spending time with a group geared towards grief management. No sadness! No anger! No guilt! David goes on to introduce his friends Pruitt (John Carroll Lynch) and Sadie (Lindsay Burdge), who have also been to Mexico for this revelatory spiritual experience. It's all a little too new age for Will and though uncomfortable and perhaps a bit paranoid, he agrees to stay and have dinner. It's very apparent that the ghosts of the past have Will battling old demons - Will and Eden's young son died in a tragic accident at the house and Will is still fighting those emotions, heightened by his return to the house they shared.
Soon, talk turns to playing a game of "I want", in which Eden plants an awkward, much-too-long kiss on mutual friend Ben. Pruitt then wraps his "I want" into an unsettling story about how he "accidentally" killed his wife - but it's okay, because the program - called The Invitation - helped him get rid of all his guilt and move past it. This shocks everyone and leads one of their friends, Claire, to leave. Will, his inner sense of pending doom on overdrive, tries to make sure Claire leaves okay after Pruitt follows her out, claiming he parked her in.
Amping up the tension is the fact that David has been locking the door behind everyone who enters, there are actually bars on the windows, and one of their friends, Choi, has never arrived - despite a voice mail that Will received from him stating he was already there and had forgotten the dessert - could Will pick it up on his way? All of the unrest ends up with Will having a bit of a freak-out, demanding to know where Choi is. Kira tries to get Will to leave with her but he's not having it, certain that David and Eden are up to something sinister and are trying to recruit the others into their "cult". Unfortunately, Will's suspicions are short-lived when everyone is relieved to see Choi arrive, having been called back to work and been detained. Everyone subsequently assumes Will is just having a hard time dealing with seeing Eden and the house again due to his past trauma. But Will may be on to something here....he knows it, and we as the audience certainly know it.
Director Karyn Kusama keeps us all on edge and full of dread with her fine-tuning and attention to detail. Her choice for the score is another win, as Theodore Shapiro (whose score for Ghostbusters 2016 will likely bring much more acclaim than this little indie could, sadly) has created a creepy and emotional score to mesh together all the emotions of fear, anxiety and downright quiet terror that this film pushes on us. I readily anticipate more from both in the future.