Do not be fooled by the cover art on this DVD. It is not a horror film; it's a morality play. Phooey! Even Amazon.com's page for The Invitation designates it as "horror", so a lot of people are bound to be disappointed.
Sort of a cross between Ten Little Indians and This Is Your Life, The Invitation is about Roland (Lance Henriksen), a rich and eccentric man who invites a half dozen of his best friends to his island estate for dinner and a weekend getaway. He tricks them into eating a poisoned soup and then tells them that the only way he will give them the antidote is if they tell their biggest, baddest secrets and atone for their sins.
Just in case no one is game, Roland has gone ahead and dug six little graves (and I do mean little: they're about 18 inches deep). Some of his guests oblige and fall in, while others resist the poison and reveal their deep darks. There is a bit of blood and death in some flashback scenes of past sins, but mostly there's a lot of bemoaning their fates and talking, talking, talking. The rest of the cast are basically unknowns, but their acting is passable. The Invitation may seem somewhat inviting on the DVD cover but inside is murky film, poorly photographed and looking low-budget from start to finish. This movie must have sprung from the near death experience of the writer or something like that -- it's just too preachy to have been written for fun.
The Invitation's only saving grace is the Zen-like creepiness of Lance Henriksen, who was so great on the Millennium TV series. He's been in quite a few thrillers and some quirky westerns (Dead Man, The Quick & the Dead), and it looks now he's going to be concentrating on the horror genre. Coming up, he's got Hellraiser: Hellworld, Alien Vs. Predator, and Madhouse, to name just a few. Let's hope he won't be "invited back" for a sequel to this bad party.
Review by Staci Layne Wilson for Horror.com