Invitation (2003)

Rating: C

Dir: Jeff Burton
Star: Rick Kunzi, Johanna Lixey, Tommy Strasz, Ryann Davey

Well, this was a chore, even before I started watching it. The DVD wouldn’t rip for some reason, and when I tried to watch it on my computer, the audio was horribly out of sync. I ended up having to download it from one of the (cough) usual sources instead, simply to cross it off the list. You will likely be unsurprised to learn, it probably wasn’t worth all the effort. This is a fairly generic tale of revenge from beyond the grave, opening with a kid getting killed on a road, when trying to retrieve a baseball. Though quite why that’s anyone else’s fault escapes me. Your child’s failure to learn the Green Cross Code is hardly my responsibility. Go have another one.

15 years later, the other kids present, now all grown up, get an invite to a remote cabin. Despite being kinda vague on the details, such as who and why, they all show up, where they meet the Creepy Caretaker (Bill Vincent). They also get a visit from the Local Mad Woman, who says they need to leave, and mutters “They’re here…” repeatedly. She is ignored, and the guests sit around chatting, briefly discussing Dead Kid. It’s all kinda sluggish. Felt like we were well past the half-way point before any of the guests met their inevitable fate. Though they aren’t as annoying as some examples of the genre, the chit-chat isn’t very interesting, and the brief flashes of gratuitous nudity feel like the bare minimum (hohoho!).

“All we’re talking about is a few bad dreams and a noise outside,” says a person at the 55-minute mark. The sad thing is, he’s not wrong. Things do ramp up somewhat thereafter, though the script still seems reluctant to break out past elements you will have seen a thousand times before, such as the mysterious journal that is suddenly found. Few of the characters make much of an impression; one of the girls does look like what you might get, if you ordered Tiffany Shepis on Temu. You won’t be surprised to learn that a) Local Mad Woman was right, or b) Creepy Caretaker is involved. I did quite like the idea of the cabin being a home for wayward ghost children. 

Some of the deaths aren’t bad either, given the limited budget. One involving a mulcher is perhaps the most effective, in an EC Comics kinda way. On the other hand, I would suggest Burton lay off on the fog machines and strobe lights, since these seem close to the only tricks in his cinematic arsenal. He keeps the camera pushed in tight, I suspect seeking to generate a sense of claustrophobia, and is only partially successful. Logic likely was not a factor when writing the script, since there’s no consistency as to what happens, or why. Yet if you can buy into its nightmarish approach, it does occasionally work, and is more proficient technically than I expected.