Are you afraid of the dark?
I am, but not in real life. I’m afraid of the dark ruining movies. I like to see what’s going on, and when a horror flick tries to provide spooky thrills by blanketing the screen in darkness, that can be a problem.
It’s a problem in “The Invitation” (PG-13, 104 minutes), a Hammer Horror-type effort about a young American woman who’s invited to an aristocratic shindig at an English country manor and gets a lot more than she bargained for. Characters are terrorized in a library, in a wine cellar, in a bedroom late at night. Whatever’s meant to scare us is either a blur of motion, a shadow, or something equally difficult to decipher. Mysterious? Sure. Irritatingly so.
Of course, the situation in which the protagonist finds herself is, as they say, “shrouded in mystery.” Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel of “Game of Thrones”) is a twentysomething struggling artist in New York with no one in her life except her best pal, Grace (Courtney Taylor). She discovers through a website that she actually has relatives in England – and they’re wealthy. She connects with one of them, cousin Oliver (Hugh Skinner), who invites her to a big family wedding in Merry Old England. He’ll even pay for the travel costs!
How can she say no? She doesn’t, and soon finds herself in the world of “Downton Abbey” – if Downton were the setting for a Christopher Lee spookfest.
You know what they say about when things seem too good to be true? Evie is about to learn that appearances can be deceiving (and if that’s a spoiler, you’ve probably never been in a movie theater). She can’t help but be impressed by the magnificence of the estate – and its super-suave bachelor owner, Walter (Thomas Doherty of “Gossip Girl”). But things are about to turn creepy – fast.
The film improves toward the end, when things are cleared up – literally and figuratively. But, even then, the results are only moderately successful. There are no surprises, no entertaining twists, no comic relief to liven things up. I’ve seen a lot worse movies of this genre, but that’s hardly a strong recommendation. ** (out for four)
** Click here for Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **
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Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He also teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.