Too long since your gut’s had a good churning? The Invitation was sent out for a tight-knit group of friends (and a couple of hand-picked interlopers) to gather at a dinner party that initially had all the makings of a crisis intervention. Crisis, indeed! Arbitration? Not likely. It takes about 15 minutes to figure out the “why,” but hats off to director Karyn Kusama and screenwriting/marriage partner Phil Hay (he shares credit with Matt Manfredi) for encouraging me to want to stick around and see just how they were going to pull it off. At any moment, this one-location shoot could have swerved in the direction of canned theatre. Rely on Kusama’s telling arrangement of actors in the frame (particularly the background movements of John Carroll Lynch) to establish a character hierarchy. After that, the tension is all uphill until an unforeseen curtain shock slaps an extra coat of chills on all that’s come before. Lynch shares credit with a superb ensemble, but it’s his halcyon turn as a pitiable demon that unifies the action. In the shot or out of it, once onscreen, his presence permeates every ensuing frame. With Logan Marshall-Green and Tammy Blanchard. (2016) — Scott Marks
This movie is not currently in theaters.