Karyn Kusama’s paranoid thriller of manners, The Invitation (read our review), hits Blu-ray next week, and we got an early taste of some of the special features including the audio commentary featuring Kusama and co-writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. As far as commentaries go it’s a good one. The trio dive deep into the themes of the film as well as some of the inspirations behind the project. Kusama also discusses the process of shooting the film along with some of the challenges of shooting in a single location.
I’ve assembled five interesting facts about the film you may not have known including a shocking revelation about the fate of a character that will forever change the way you view the film.
[Mild spoiler warning]
1. The original cast was full of stars
Sometimes familiar faces can ruin a good story, hindering suspension of disbelief or creating narrative expectations that lead viewers wandering from the filmmakers’ intentions. The talent of these actors aside, The Invitation may have dodged that bullet when it ended up losing its originally announced cast, which included Luke Wilson, Zachary Quinto, Topher Grace and Johnny Galecki.
In the end, Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) leading a cast of virtual unknowns allows audiences to focus on the film’s mounting dread and not the star power.
2. Kusama was inspired by 70’s thrillers
While All the President’s Men, Three Days of the Condor and the early work of Brian DePalma don’t share a similar narrative to The Invitation, they set the stage for Kusama’s approach to the style of her film. Even The Invitation‘s simple title card, which Kusama describes as “spare and offset,” gets attributed to All the President’s Men and other films of the era that she says took a radical approach at the time.
3. They put a big tent over that house
Instead of filling a schedule with grueling night shoots, the production team tented the house where the film takes place to create the illusion of darkness outside while they shot during the day. The only scene Kusama insisted they shoot at night was the dinner scene at the center of the film which had the cast surrounded by windows.
4. Claire didn’t make it
This one really bums me out, folks. In a particularly tense moment at the center of the film, one of the dinner guests, Claire, decides she’s had enough of the strange evening and announces she’s going to leave early. Despite everyone’s best efforts to convince her to stay, she stands firm, grabs her bag and gets the hell out of the house.
Tensions rise when Pruitt ( The Walking Dead’s John Carroll Lynch) , a character we’re already on edge about, says his car is blocked her’s in the driveway and he needs to move it before she can leave. The two venture outside and we’re left wondering if Pruitt has anything more sinister on this mind, or if Claire made it home unharmed. Since the film has a strict main character POV, we’re left inside and wondering along with Will.
I always liked the ambiguity of Claire’s fate and saw her decision to leave as a cautionary tale of sorts. Too often we adhere to social morays at the expense of better judgement and even personal safety. Even when our mind cries out that a situation may not be safe, we stick it out and hope for the best rather than rock the boat. It’s an odd human trait and Claire’s firm stance to leave the party when it was getting too weird for her gave me hope that it meant she’d beaten the odds in this case.
But, alas, my hopes have been dashed. Kusama reveals in the commentary that Claire was indeed attacked off screen bu Pruitt and a scene of her in the bushes, dying from her wounds, was eventually cut from the film for story reasons. This will forever change the way I view the film.
5. The director and screenwriter are married
Karyn Kusama’s is married to Phil Hay, the screenwriter of big Hollywood films like Æon Flux, the recent Clash of the Titans remake and R.I.P.D. When Hay and his writing partner Matt Manfredi were working on The Invitation, they approached Kusama for her thoughts on the story at which point she expressed an interest in directing the film.