Brief Thoughts: 'The Invitation' And 'Hush'

I really enjoy putting my reviews together.  I honestly wish I could delve deeper into certain movies, but alas, I get incredibly busy and can sometimes only deal with movies to a briefer extent than I would prefer.  This is why I write these occasional "Brief Thoughts" posts on movies I have seen, as I want to at least offer some of my own perspective on them.  They may not be as polished, but I can at least get my opinions out there. This Brief Thoughts post is a double review of two thrillers both similar and different - 'The Invitation' and 'Hush'.

The Invitation: 4 out of 5

Working fairly independently, director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Jennifer's Body) has teamed up with writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi for a very low-key thriller based around a dinner party. Not-Tom Hardy - Logan Marshall-Green stars as Will, a man attending the party hosted by his ex-wife. He is bringing along his new girlfriend and joining several others who all have not seen each other in quite some time.

To say more about the plot would be a disservice to the surprises in-store for those who are intrigued already, but you should at least know The Invitation builds a lot out of the psychological games it plays with the lead character. From the start we know that something sinister may be afoot and it is because Will's mental perspective is what the film centers around.

Regardless of what events do transpire though, The Invitation makes plenty out of the dinner party setup. There's a great ear for dialogue on display when it comes to having people come together for a social gathering in a private setting and the awkwardness that ensues when it involves people who have changed or those who are unfamiliar with each other.

As hosts Eden and David, Tammy Blanchard and Michiel Huisman do a terrific job in bringing a tricky sense of trust to the film, as they present a lot of information that calls into question whether they are just kinda strange or if something else is actually happening. Adding John Carroll Lynch to the mix further adds to the effectiveness of this story.

The Invitation is slow-burn overall, but not one that I ever found to be uninteresting. Once the third act does kick into gear, however, the film makes good use of its established geography of the house and builds things to a natural and fitting conclusion. It is then topped off by a final shot that is simply amazing. Adding on solid character work for the key players and you have a film that is a solid watch overall and perfect for those looking for a dark drama.

Hush: 3 1/2 out of 5

I was immediately intrigued by this film that arrived on Netflix because of co-writer/director Mike Flanagan. I've still yet to see Absentia, but I really enjoyed Oculus for the way it presented a horror/thriller that worked hard to play by a distinct set of rules (and show us another great performance from the terribly underrated Rory Cochrane). Hush is a lot more straightforward, as it is built around a central gimmick: a deaf woman is stalked by a psychotic killer in her secluded home.

The woman is Maddie (Kate Siegel, who co-wrote the film with her husband, Flanagan). After a brief setup, we are on our way with this nifty 80-minute thriller. Circumstances trap Maddie in her secluded home without a means to reach out to others via phone or computer and it is up to the use of her own wits to figure things outs.

Our villain comes in the form of a crossbow-wielding John Gallagher Jr., fresh off his nice guy performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane, another seemingly small-scale film involving only a few characters. This is not much of a spoiler as the man takes his mask off very early and gives us a face and personality to associate with this killer who has no other motivation beyond playing with his victim.

The entertainment comes from how this film manages to creatively stretch out its premise. It is a bit convenient to have the killer amused so much by stalking a death woman, which is what keeps him from easily breaking into her house, but there is 'fun' to be had from how Maddie attempts to outsmart him. The real issues come from wondering how far some of these attempts could really go and wondering why certain choices are not made sooner or differently.

At 80 minutes, the film does not linger too much on certain possibilities, so it is easier to take in if you just try not to think too hard about alternate means of accomplishing certain tasks. Regardless, Hush makes the most out of its premise without overstaying its welcome. The performances are decent enough and the Blumhouse Productions sheen works well here. In between 10 Cloverfield Lane and Green Room, this is a fine way to kill time.


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