I’m a sucker for invasion narratives. I’ll watch just about anything that hints that it might be like The Strangers (2008) or The Invitation (2015). It’s led me to discover some gems as well as a lot of duds. So when I say Duncan Birmingham’s horror comedy Who Invited Them lies somewhere in between those two extremes that… probably isn’t all that helpful. I guess what I’m trying to say is, Who Invited Them is decent but never really reaches its potential: it plays around with invasion tropes but never really goes anywhere with them.
Adam (Ryan Hansen) and Margo (Melissa Tang) have just moved into a swanky new home in Beverly Hills and are keen (well, Adam is) to show off the sign of their new-found success to their friends and colleagues. While the party is a moderate success many of the guests leave earlier than they hoped, leaving the homeowners with a mysterious couple, Sasha (Perry Mattfield) and Tom (Timothy Granaderos), who claim to be their new neighbours. Things take sinister turn when the four of them decide to
Birmingham’s feature has been billed as a horror comedy and there’s nothing wrong with calling it a comedy – perhaps calling it a black comedy or even an offbeat indie comedy would be more appropriate, the way it forces its central couple confronts the cracks appearing in their marriage – although by the same token I can’t say I found it all that comedic. It feels like that label was a result of its cast, particularly Ryan Hansen, best known for his role in work-place comedy series Party Down (note: with the renewal of the show, I very much want to see a murder mystery/slasher episode). Having said that, Perry Mattfield’s excellent deadpan demeanour which she maintains throughout the film’s twists and turns may have hinted at what Who Invited Them Was aiming at in a wider fashion.
Speaking of twists and turns, while the film goes in some enjoyable directions, there is little that the audience is unlikely to anticipate. That is, until the film makes some strange choices in the third act. There’s a parallel narrative taking place with Margo’s friends, a married couple who have taken Adam and Margo’s son Dylan (Kalo Moss) over to their house for a sleepover for the duration of the party. And while these two stories do eventually intersect, it’s difficult to figure out why they bothered. It’s not that there’s no reason given for this second narrative: it’s more that it feels like there’s was an intended reason but those dots never properly get connected.
And then the end happens: unfortunately, the truncated run-time of 80 minutes shows at the time it ideally shouldn’t, which is the ending. There are a lot of unfinished plot threads and insufficient explanations for what has happened. Without giving much away, I’m happy to accept that this may have been the filmmaker’s intention, but by the same token it doesn’t do enough to make that clear either.
It’s not a hugely disappointing ending, but that may be because I wasn’t particularly invested in the first place. Alrhough perhaps Who Invited Them is more about the ride. Which is engaging enough with enjoyable performances. And if, like me, you’ll watch anything where rich people get traumatised in their homes, then you won’t begrudge Who Invited Them their 80 reasonably entertaining minutes. If that’s not your thing, you might want to look elsewhere.
Who Invited Them is currently streaming on Shudder