No matter how a lot they may counsel in any other case, nobody needs to be seen as uncool. Who Invited Them, the brand new horror comedy from writer-director Duncan Birmingham, understands that. To its credit score, the movie additionally understands that an individual’s need to be accepted and welcomed by these they admire can, in sure situations, cause them to ignore their very own instincts and carry out acts that they wouldn’t usually contemplate doing.
Consequently, whereas Who Invited Them by no means fairly reaches the heights it will must with the intention to be thought-about considered one of this yr’s style gems, it does handle to steal a trick from each nice horror film’s playbook. The movie, which premieres completely on Shudder this week, weaponizes its characters’ core wishes and forces them right into a state of affairs that solely grows weirder and extra distressing the additional into its runtime Who Invited Them will get.
In doing so, the movie delivers greater than its fair proportion of the form of “don’t go in there!” moments that the horror genre has change into recognized for over time. However not like a whole lot of mainstream horror films, Who Invited Them is aware of that audiences will settle for it when a personality, say, walks willingly into an clearly harmful room as long as they perceive what drives them to take action.
Within the case of Who Invited Them, it’s the craving Adam (Ryan Hansen) feels to be seen as a legit member of the Hollywood Hills elite that leads him and his spouse, Margo (Melissa Tang), to so simply welcome a pair of whole strangers into their dwelling. After introducing themselves as Margo and Adam’s new next-door neighbors, the strangers in query, Tom (Timothy Granaderos) and Sasha (Perry Mattfeld), discuss Hansen and Tang’s unsuspecting newcomers into internet hosting a late-night haunt session stuffed with alcohol, music, and psychological manipulation.
Constructing from there, Who Invited Them shortly evolves right into a enjoyable, charmingly low-budget spin on the form of dwelling invasion thrillers that horror followers have change into very acquainted with over time. Birmingham’s script helps it change into that by making it instantly clear that Tom and Sasha’s causes for exhibiting up at Adam and Margo’s home aren’t as harmless as they declare. The director does so with out additionally prematurely giving freely the aim of the couple’s go to, which permits Who Invited Them to maintain viewers on their again foot for many of the movie’s story.
That’s considered one of Who Invited Them‘s extra spectacular achievements, but additionally a mandatory one. If Tom and Sasha’s precise intentions had been revealed too early, many of the suspense could be faraway from their extended invasion of Adam and Margo’s lives. Though the movie’s climactic revelations about Tom and Sasha are pretty predictable as effectively, Birmingham does a very good job of creating viewers really feel Adam and Margo’s rising confusion, which prevents the depth of the battle between Who Invited Them‘s 4 leads from ever deflating.
It’s within the movie’s opening sequence, which follows Adam and Margo’s younger son as a late-night seek for his mother and father steadily turns right into a nightmare, that Who Invited Them additionally feels essentially the most like an easy horror story. These first couple of minutes inject the movie with a way of horror and stress that Birmingham manages to maintain for many of its 80-minute runtime. The truth is, so far as prologues go, Who Invited Them’s unnerving first scene may rank as among the finest chilly opens of any of this yr’s horror movies.
Who Invited Them does, after all, transfer away fairly a bit from the darkish tone of its opening sequence by shortly including shades of comedy and absurdity to its story. The performances given by the movie’s 4 leads, in flip, mirror the duality of Who Invited Them’s tone. For his or her elements, Hansen and Granaderos consistently ham it up in entrance of the digital camera because the movie’s two main male figures, handing over performances that really feel completely fitted to Who Invited Them’s funnier moments.
Reverse them, Mattfeld and Tang flip in equally heightened however extra emotionally layered performances as Sasha and Margo. Out of the movie’s 4 leads, Mattfeld, particularly, appears to be essentially the most fitted to Who Invited Them’s darkly humorous tone. Her tongue-in-cheek, self-aware efficiency as Sasha is on the middle of lots of the movie’s greatest scenes, together with one non-public interplay between her and Tang that successfully combines, of all issues, a set of golf golf equipment and a drunken telephone name to considered one of Margo’s former band members.
The performances given by Mattfeld and Co. assist root Who Invited Them in a single constant, humorously darkish tonal house. That’s very true within the moments when Birmingham’s script bends over backward to attempt to keep the movie’s underlying stress by leaving the confines of Margo and Adam’s dwelling with the intention to comply with considered one of their associates, Teeny (Tipper Newton), on a superfluous search by way of the darkened streets of the Hollywood Hills.
The truth that Birmingham feels the necessity to even embody a largely inconsequential subplot about considered one of Adam and Margo’s associates is, sadly, emblematic of the slightness of Who Invited Them’s story. The movie is in the end a minor horror effort, one which makes nice use of its lead’s all-too-relatable need for validation however by no means fairly reaches its full potential.
For that purpose, Who Invited Them makes a whole lot of sense as Shudder’s newest straight-to-streaming unique. It’s a fun little thriller that ought to handle to fulfill all of the horror followers on the market who may discover themselves within the temper for one thing that’s simple to digest this weekend, however it’s not highly effective or efficient sufficient to depart a very lasting impression.
Who Invited Them premieres Thursday, September 1 on Shudder.