Mild spoiler warning: This review contains the discussion of a few plot points that are also contained within the film’s trailer.
Audiences have been fascinated by vampires for hundreds of years. In a year when Nosferatu celebrates its 100th birthday, The Invitation is just the latest in a long line of stories about the undead but this time, with a feminist twist.
In 2022, it’s likely you or someone you know has done a mail-away DNA testing kit to find out your ancestry, health traits or, just maybe, discover you have long-lost wealthy relatives living in a mansion in the British countryside.
In The Invitation, the orphaned Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) discovers she shares a family tree with a branch of British aristocrats. Eager to invite some new blood into their manor, Evie is whisked away to England to attend a family wedding. Sure, her newfound family in their gothic mansion seems a little odd. But as she’s wined and dined and made to feel like the centre of attention, Evie forgets her worries, including the fact she has yet to meet the bride-to-be.
Introduced to her non-relative Walter De Ville—ha, get it? Devil! Evie finds herself wooed by this handsome and mysterious suitor who has more than a few surprises up his sleeve. As the pre-wedding festivities ramp up, Evie learns that it is she who is to become a vampire bride, thus securing the family’s bloodline in this homage to all things Dracula.
Directed by Jessica M. Thompson who co-writes the script with Blair Butler, The Invitation is a rare, feminist entry into the vampire canon. The audience knows all too well what will happen long before Evie does, but her journey makes for an entertaining watch as she’s seduced by Walter (Thomas Doherty) and his lady gang, Viktoria and Lucy (Stephanie Corneliussen and Alana Boden).
In theatres on August 26, The Invitation doesn’t exactly reinvent the genre, but with a female director and writers, it certainly gives more agency to Evie than what is typical. She is not simply a bumbling victim of the sexy vamp, but a woman who will not go down without a fight. As a woman of colour, the casting of Game Of Thrones star Emmanuel adds even more layers of isolation and “otherness” to this vampire tale.
In similar films, it’s usually the men who seduce, but here, Viktoria and Lucy are just as seductive to Evie, even if they may not have her best intentions at heart. They are women who’ve not had a tremendous amount of choice in life and, as a result, are simultaneously punitive and supportive of Evie’s freedom. The power of women in this film isn’t accidental. Originally titled The Bride, the name was changed after male test audiences complained about the title. Oh, the irony. Though its new title reflects the idea that a vampire must be invited into a home to enter it, it is still all about the bride.
Much of the credit for the film’s success goes to Emmanuel, who believably conveys Evie’s thirst for the excess in front of her. Thanks to a well-written, pointed script, Evie is shown to be an intelligent woman with something to say and do. She is more than just a victim of the vampire clan— she is a character you want to root for. When things take an unexpected turn in the last half of the movie, a move again made successful by Emmanuel, it offers a refreshing change of pace within the genre.
With several tongue-in-cheek moments, countless Easter eggs and nods to vampiric lore (one character is named Harker), The Invitation is a luscious gothic horror that doesn’t ask you to take it too seriously. A fun end-of-summer watch, this one has plenty to sink your teeth into.
Watch this one in a double bill with Ready Or Not for the ultimate in bridal horror.