The Invitation (2003)
Director: Pat Bermel
Six peeps with their own shit going on are invited to an island for a private shin-dig by their mutual friend Roland (Henriksen). You see, good ol' Ro just came back from one hell of a journey, where he experienced a life affirming awakening of sorts. He now wants to share what he went through with his loved ones, whether they like it or not. Whoever said being poisoned and tripping out was bad for your health didn’t see this film!
What would happen if some kooky Chef took the 80”s “face your sins” flick “Flatliners”, injected it with a potent dose of depth while removing all of its tension and scares? A little ditty akin to “The Invitation” would happen.
I have to give it to this film, whatever its flaws, it definitely had its heart in the right place. This artsy slice of celluloid was filled to the brim with potent existential ideas, and its philosophical stance on the voyage we call life resonated with me hardcore. On this tortuous road, we all ask ourselves the bigger questions, we all have skeletons in our closets and we all have our own personal demons to live with. This flick addressed all of those themes in a mature and powerful manner, while taking it all a step further by also tackling the action of “letting go”. According to this film, admitting to our sins will lighten the load on our souls. Take that to the bank! That’s something I should look into myself because there’s no space left in my freaking closet. It’s a damn sin party in there!
It surely helped that most of the “penny for your deep thoughts” syrup found here was poured by one of the best actors the good old US of A has to offer. Yes, I speak of the one and only Lance Henriksen. Sure, the man has sold his skills out in the past, acting for that coin ("Mangler 2" or "Sasquatch" anyone?), but when he’s in a quality project, with strong writing to back him up, the man shines brighter than a “Glow Stick” up a Firefly’s ying-yang. "The Invitation" is one of those efforts that displayed the Henriksen machine at his best and I for one was kept into the loop to a ludicrous degree by the man’s gripping presence alone. It’s obvious to me that King Henriksen probably connected to the material and he therefore delved into the role wholeheartedly. That made for a truly captivating display of brilliant acting. GREAT STUFF!
On the sinning side, the flick did sport a couple of major drawbacks. First off, it tried to tinker as a thriller, but failed miserably. None of the visions (i.e. hallucinations) were scary or drove any impact home. They were just there. The vast ensemble cast at hand also proved problematic where the story would focus on some more than others. Who was that cute dame Anne again and what was her deal? Beats me. Lastly, taking into account the insane situation going down, you would thing that suspense and hard-hitting plot turns would be tossed our way. Wrong! This one pretty much played it one note the whole way, never taking things to the next level and in consequence, never really putting my balls in a vice grip where they damn well belong.
But all in all, I was entertained and affected by "The Invitation". The flick was directed in a polished fashion, showcased some quality acting, some touching moments (Liza’s speech got to me…nice!), a clever ending and more importantly, served up a healthy cup of thought-provoking ideals that had the hamster in my little wheel turning as the end credits rolled. Will you accept this invitation?
We get some blood here and there, but plasma is not the main course at this soiree.
Lance Henriksen (Roland) has always been a favorite of mine with his slew of intense performances. His stints in "Near Dark" and "Johnny Handsome" will always be remembered by yours truly. It was great to see Lance do some prime work again. He’s a fine actor that should keep to fine projects. We love ya, Lance! Christopher Shyer (Joel) held his own and perfectly conveyed the many emotional levels his part demanded as well. Stellina Rusich (Liza) kept me riveted by her impressive ta-tas and then sucker-punched me with a heartfelt and awesomely delivered monologue. Good job girl! Sarah-Jane Redmond (Maria) also hit all the right notes with her aloof, yet engaging, show. Douglas O'Keeffe (Michael) had this sympathetic aura about him that made me like him a lot.
T & A
We get Stellina Rusich’s massive cleavage looking like it's going to pop out of that dress at any second to bash us in the face. The ladies get pumped up Douglas O'Keeffe shirtless.
Pat Bermel handled his visuals with flair, putting out quick cuts, a trippy use of image alterations, filters, slow motion and kool scene transitions. He also offered a couple of gripping artsy images that stayed with me (loved the river bit). Sadly, the man couldn’t milk tension out of a goat’s ass.
We get an able score that fit the many moods of the oddball situation. I dug it!
"The Invitation" is an artsy type of genre flick that kept me in its ring via a slick premise, solid writing, and grade A performances while taking on themes that stroked my ticker. Sure, it snored as a thriller or a horror movie, but it worked overtime as a poignant drama and a compelling examination of the human condition. It must also be said that Lance Henriksen alone, kicking all kinds of performance ass, was a big plus! You craving something a tad deeper and smarter than the usual fare? Hit this party as you wait for your own epiphany to kick in. Now back to the “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” I go. Can I get rid of my demons already! They’re weighing me down!
This flick was shot in British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Director Pat Bermel also wrote the screenplay.