The Invitation (2022)’ is a fantasy horror film directed by Jessica M. Thompson and written by Blair Butler. It stars Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Hugh Skinner, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden and Sean Pertwee. Initially seeming like a knock-off of ‘Get Out‘, it soon brings into the fold an icon of horror and becomes a most entertaining film that pays homage to a number of films belonging to the genre. Its glossy look and some obvious elements in its scripting do act as glaring problems but Thompson has made a film that uses the angle of racism most intelligently in dealing with the conflict between genetic history and cultural history.
THE INVITATION (2022) PLOT SUMMARY & MOVIE SYNOPSIS:
A woman living in a desolate room of a large English mansion refuses to eat, something she’s been doing for a while. When the butler forces her to, she escapes in a violent rage with what seems like superhuman speed and power. After hiding from those searching for her, she hangs herself with a piano string that decapitates her.
In New York, Evie is an aspiring artist who was recently orphaned and practices ceramics. While waitressing for an anniversary party of a genetics research company, her friend, Grace gives her a goodie bag that includes a DNA kit. Curious about her ancestry, she uses the DNA kit and on the company’s website, opts to allow her relatives to contact her if they can trace any. Soon, she receives a message from Oliver Alexander, her aristocratic cousin from England, wanting to meet her on an upcoming New York trip.
At the meeting, Oliver seems grateful for their acquaintance. He tells her about their connection and invites her to this grand wedding in Yorkshire where their cousin is marrying into an extraordinarily rich family. Evie agrees, realizing it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
After convincing her friend, Grace, about keeping her abreast of whatever it is that’ll transpire at the wedding, she arrives in England. New Carfax Abbey, the house of the DeVilles, is an ancient, Gothic manor. The place is presided over by Walter DeVille, the young lord. It’s a magical destination wedding for Evie, who is lovingly welcomed into the Alexander family while Walter fawns over her as they come to realize their mutual attraction towards each other.
Viktoria, one of the bridesmaids, is oddly confrontational and insulting towards Evie though, while the other bridesmaid, Lucy, is a meek girl and is kind to her while being bossed over by Viktoria. Soon, the maids start to disappear as they’re killed by a shadowy figure. Evie has dreams of the woman we saw at the beginning of the film. Eventually, after they have sex, Walter asks Evie to marry him and she jokingly agrees. As it turns out soon enough, it was anything but a joke for him and the dream soon turns into a nightmare as she realizes what she has unwittingly stepped into.
WHAT IS EVIE’S CONNECTION TO THE ALEXANDERS?
At their first meeting, Oliver tells Evie that his great-grandmother, a rebellious young woman by the name of Emmaline, had a scandalous, secret affair with a Black footman while she was already engaged. She gave birth to a baby, which is Evie’s grandfather, after which the footman left the village and brought him up on his own. Emmaline managed to keep her affair a secret even from her husband.
In the present day, the Alexanders are thrilled by this chapter of their history and overjoyed at having discovered a part of their family in America. It’s made all the more special by the fact that the family seemed to beget only male children and thus Evie’s discovery comes as a relief to the patriarch, her’s and Oliver’s great-uncle Alfred.
WHO IS WALTER DEVILLE REALLY?
Though it’s never exactly specified what Walter really is, it is quite clear that he’s a vampire. He drinks blood, is centuries old, and yet seems hardly a day over thirty. His house is called New Carfax Abbey, which is a reference to Carfax, the estate that Dracula purchased for his residence in England in Bram Stoker’s eponymous novel. His last name, DeVille, is a homophone of the word ‘devil’. New Carfax is located in Whitby, the place where Stoker conceived the idea of the character and the seminal novel. The Demeter, a Russian ship that brought Count Dracula to England, ended its final voyage in Whitby, which also makes it the first place he set foot in England.
All this information culminates in Walter telling Evie that in Wallachia, a region in Romania, he was called ‘The Son of the Dragon’, which is what the name ‘Dracula’ means in Romanian while ‘Dracul’ means ‘devil’. Interestingly, his last name ‘DeVille’ is a homophone of ‘devil’. He also states that in his ‘old country’, probably Romania, he was also called ‘Nosferatu’, which is another word for vampire and was the name of the seminal 1922 horror movie that plagiarised its story entirely from Bram Stoker’s novel. It’s possible then that Walter is not just any vampire but Count Dracula himself.
WHAT PURPOSE DID EVIE HAVE AT THE WEDDING?
The three families that serve Walter, namely the Billingtons, the Klopstocks, and the Alexanders, do so by providing him with wives. The wives are a transaction in exchange for which Walter provides the three families with wealth and status for eternity and so they’re dependent on him for their prosperity. Walter seems to have quite a consecrated notion of the number three, again harkening back to the novel, ‘Dracula’, and the importance of the number there.
Lucy is a Billington, Viktoria is a Klopstock and Emmaline was an Alexander. Emmaline was to be wedded to Walter when she had her affair with Evie’s great-grandfather. Walter’s wives drink his blood at their wedding, to gain his qualities like immortality, a glacial pace of aging, extreme strength, and speed. As it turns out, Viktoria had been married to Walter for 500 years and Lucy, for 100. In the event of Walter’s death, they lose the powers they gained from him.
Emmaline, characterized as rebellious, was opposed to Walter’s practices from the beginning and eventually killed herself having gotten tired of the life she was forced to lead.
Emmaline’s death jeopardized Walter’s relationship with the Alexanders, who then jumped at the opportunity to put Evie up as a replacement for her own grandmother, as his wife, after they discovered her through Evie’s attempt at finding out about her ancestry. To ensure this calamity does not befall them, the Alexanders sent Oliver to bring Evie to the wedding.
THE INVITATION (2022) MOVIE ENDING, EXPLAINED:
At the wedding, Evie agrees to marry Walter, realizing that she can then gain his powers, which is the only way in which she can overpower her captors. Once that happens, she sets fire to the altar, stabs Walter in the heart instantly makes him grow old though does not kill him, and escapes with the maid, Dea.
When Viktoria confronts her, Lucy comes to Evie’s defense, having gotten tired of her domineering attitude. In the ensuing fight between Lucy and Viktoria, the former gets the both of them impaled, hence killing themselves. Following this, Evie kills Mr. Fields, the racist butler of Walter who admits to killing Evie’s great-grandfather, having found out about his affair with Emmaline. When an aged Walter arrives to kill Evie, she throws him into the fire that she had started at the altar and was now spreading across his home. This makes her avenge the death of her grandparents.
As a consequence of Walter’s death, Evie no longer remains a vampire but becomes a normal human being again. In the epilogue, Evie and Grace wait for Oliver near his office so they can kill him as revenge for what he put Evie through.