As horror movies go, Who Invited Them is relatively benign – it’s sort of a home invasion, psychological thriller, dark comedy, slick little character piece that is highly enjoyable, if not very bloody or scary. A Shudder original available on the streaming service September first, watching Who Invited Them is like sitting in a waiting room, but having a good magazine to read.
In his first feature-length film, writer/director Duncan Birmingham introduces us to Adam (Ryan Hanson, best known for Veronica Mars) and Margo (Melissa Tang) who have just upgraded to a sweet California ranch house in the hills and are having a housewarming party to schmooze and show off for all of their friends and co-workers. Two guests who reveal themselves as neighbors remain after all the other guests have left. Ever the hospitable hosts and trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” Adam and Margo invite the attractive, younger couple Sasha (a gorgeous and effortlessly seductive Perry Mattfeld, In the Dark) and Tom (Timothy Granaderos) to stay for a nightcap (well, they basically invite themselves) and as the old fashioneds flow, so do the revelations and uncomfortable truths.
As it turns out, Margo never really wanted to move to the hills, but Adam got a great deal on the house due to a murder/suicide or double homicide (does it matter?) where the bodies decomposed for days before the gardener noticed the smell and called the police. Margo, of course, only knows the benign half-truth Adam told her so she would agree to move there. This is only one of many couples-therapy type confessions that Sasha and Tom manage to elicit from the couple of the course of the evening. The later it gets, the more nefarious the guests’ motives seem, and the party atmosphere gets ugly.
The strength of the acting and characters keep a static environment interesting and suspenseful in Who Invited Them
Who Invited Them focuses primarily on four characters in a single location, yet manages to keep the plot moving, interesting, and suspenseful. It is clear from the title and the presentation of the characters of Sasha and Tom that they are up to no good, but what and why remains elusive. Also, the way the couples are paired up and split apart, it is difficult to know who to root for, and my allegiances changed more than once. There are outside plot points that could be better developed, but that serve a purpose none the less.
As the parent of a 6-year-old who hasn’t seen the dawn after a night of partying in I don’t know how long, I identify with Adam and Margo reliving their younger, party days and feeling the affirmation of being accepted by a younger, cooler duo. That connection made the movie infinitely more enjoyable for me. It’s a fun little ride that’s full of twists, but not gore, and takes its time exploring the characters so that when the mystery finally unravels and the blood flows, it feels a little late. Still, it’s a solid and enjoyable little thriller, if not very memorable.
Would you have a late night house party with total strangers? Let me know in the comments!!