The Invitation, not to be confused with the very good 2015 film of the same name, is a new take on the old tropes of the Dracula story.
Several years ago, in the era of True Blood, I couldn’t get enough of vampires…and believe me, they were everywhere—books, movies, television. But like all things presented to us in excess, I grew weary of fanged frights.
But along comes a new film that upon seeing the trailer catches my eye with all its gothic glory. And so I had to take a look.
Critically panned, The Invitation doesn’t offer anything particularly new to the sub-genre, with uninspiring dialogue and our lead character making one bad decision after another…but I’ve managed to find ten things that make the film salvageable. Here goes:
1) “New Carfax Abbey”
More on the use of names from Stoker’s Dracula later. But let’s be serious, can we just talk about this location because it is…simply put…amazing.
Nadasdy Mansion in Nadasdladany, Hungary is not only an astoundingly beautiful estate, but has ties to Elizabeth Bathory (which if you are unfamiliar with that name I suggest a google that will lead you down a bloody rabbit hole). The fact that this movie was filmed in Hungary lends quite a bit of realism to a new take on an age-old story based in the quiet creepiness of Eastern Europe.
2) The score.
Dara Taylor is a composer I knew nothing about and didn’t learn a whole lot after googling. But her intriguing score is part of what drew me to the film in the first place. Much of the music is in a minor key, as one would expect, and there are many unsettling cues—perfect for a dark and foreboding tale. Eerie female vocals and ominous synthesized themes really do elevate from being ordinary.
3) Nathalie Emmanuel, as our protagonist Evie, is someone else I was unfamiliar with, and at first glance I thought I was looking at Meghan Markle. Besides being beautiful, she was actually quite believable as a poor catering waitress trying to make it in NYC. Though as previously mentioned, she makes exceedingly bad choices, she is an ass-kicker at heart.
4) While we are discussing casting choices, I do have to say Thomas Doherty as a Walter “Lord of the manor” De Ville, does reek modern vampire deliciousness. He very much feels like the lead in a new CW supernatural show, with tangible finesse and suitable charisma. Any woman thrown in a gorgeous gothic mansion owned by this guy would be sure to throw all logic aside with one wink of those mesmerizing blue eyes.
5) The homages to the original Dracula legend, particularly with names, seem obvious but are still fun. Carfax Abbey, Lucy, and Mina and Jonathan Harker are all mentioned here, and the “three brides” is a direct reference to Dracula having three devoted brides. We learn right away that the mansion is named New Carfax Abbey, so it’s not really a secret where the story is going.
6) The house.
As previously mentioned, the mansion is a stunning estate just from the outside alone. But the inside is just gorgeous, with dark wood everywhere—and with all the rooms one can imagine a house of this size would have, including a library which is unfortunately only shown in darkness or by candlelight. There are statues and grandiose art all over, including dragons (as in “son of the dragon” aka Dracula). Antiques abound, and the grounds are as beautiful as the inside. Definite eye candy.
7) Set design.
What the designers did with the house needs its own mention, as it drips with class and wealth. Ornate architecture is shown off in mirrors and doorways and rooms filled with period furniture and tapestries, rugs and draperies, all very lush and inviting. Even the attention to detail of how a room is lit was so impressive. So that things lurking in the corner would be seen only if they are meant to be seen.
Shout out to the amazing costumes as well.
8) The romance.
Okay here’s where I might lose your interest but wait… while I am a huge fan of scary vampires like the ones from Salem’s Lot and 30 Days of Night, I do believe the vampire lends its history to a romantic side as well, with all the various legends of vampires taking human form and coercing a beautiful young lady to succumb to their every whim. And despite Evie being utterly foolish for not seeing the boatload of clues alluding to the secrets that are so very obvious to the rest of us, it always hits a girl right in the heart to see someone being swept off their feet in a whirlwind romance. If only he wasn’t out for blood. Literally.
9) The rehearsal dinner.
In which all is explained and all is certainly revealed. Amongst a feast of epic proportions in which guests are wearing masks and there is enough food to feed the whole of the armed services. A smorgasbord of food and truths.
10) The bloodletting.
This is, after all, a vampire film. We wait quite a bit for any real bloody gore, and it probably does seem tame up until nearly the end when there is finally THAT SCENE in which we are treated to a visual explanation of just what’s going on. And the blood continues from there.