image**** (out of five)

As Hollywood investigates its vision of what audiences want, director Karyn Kusama delivers a Hollywood Hills movie drenched in casual, comfortable diversity, where a character’s race is not troubled by that of the actor. Kusama, who made a headstrong debut with Girlfight, got a little lost with the over-capitalised Aeon Flux, and made a film I love – Jennifer’s Body, from a Diablo Cody script – has delivered the kind of Friday Night Twilight Zone affair that unites thinking adults and genre-fiends with The Invitation. It’s an excellent flick, and its diversity credentials are a nice little bonus, rather than any kind of obvious statement.

Writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi are an established team, and their franchise Ride Along might lead you to think they’re only Studio Boyz. Here, though, doing double duty as (some of) the film’s producers, they – along with Kusama – are in full control, and they’ve delivered a cracker of an Agatha Christie freak-out in the Hollywood Hills, where the spirit of Manson has never really gone away.

Once the spectre of cult shenanigans reared its head,  I was deeply, deeply hooked. Hay and Manfredi’s plot is complicated and satisfying and pays off to boot – big time.

Theodore Shapiro’s big and ambitious musical score is excellent and vital to the film’s structure. For a film shot in one location, The Invitation is deeply cinematic. There are plentiful, obvious and highly appreciable nods to one-location fright-feasts such as Repulsion, but even within the sub-genre of dinner-party horror, The Invitation is one of the classy affairs. Logan Marshall-Green makes a huge, career-making impact in the complex lead role. Highly recommended.

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