Humans want to know answers and we yearn for comfort in an uncomfortable world. Answers to any question are fairly scarce and only point toward more questions. That’s why cults are so attractive. They give us clear answers and then cut us off from the well of more questions with the force of Authority. The faucet is blocked, the flicker of curiosity sated by clean lines of certainty’s illusion.
Everyone faces loss at some point. The Invitation is a slow-burning horror movie that probes at the uneasy sureness, a creepy calm cheerful mask hiding any insecurities and fears. It’s more comfortable to reject emotions and convince yourself you’ve found a concrete Truth to hold onto. Like any persuasive religious sect, the people in The Invitation have some sound logic and pertinent points behind their ideology, and their cool explanations can be a bit mesmerizing.
What we feel is physical, and is part of a complex mix of chemicals, hormones, brain and nervous system responses and a million other things. There are often choices we can make to help ourselves, but denying the existence of pain and emotional turmoil is to reject the physical reality of being human altogether. That’s the point of the cult in The Invitation, and the point of most cults: deny the physical and embrace the spiritual, or the other. This line of logic, if you follow it properly, leads to death. If the physical is unimportant, and you believe in a better world beyond the world we experience, death is the logical answer. Charles Manson preached that life and death are the same, and this line of reasoning contributed to his followers thinking it was ok to kill. Jim Jones led thousands of his followers to give up all their belongings, move into a jungle, and eventually, commit mass suicide. The members of Heaven’s Gate thought they had to kill themselves to catch a ride on a comet. In the case of The Invitation, however, the cult turns out to be much larger than these relatively smaller examples.
Things get weird when they break out a video a young woman dying of cancer (supposedly,) but social conventions and the mood of the evening let that unsettling move pass through the evening with barely a hitch. Only one person decided to leave afterwards, and though there were several efforts to make her stay, they let her go. After the rest of the night unfolds, it seems like they let her go as an example, as evidence that they were not holding anyone there against their will.
The night soon turns into a fight for life, but the couple (Will and Kira) escapes only to find that this night of murder was not contained to their circle of friends. Outside the dark rolling hills of L.A. are punctuated by ominous red lanterns and emergency sirens indicate an alarming level of rescue response. This was a night of Death, of well-meaning cult members thinking they were doing the people closest to them a favor by killing them. It’s a chilling thought because this type of mindset is wholly within the realm of possibility for humans so desperate for peace from the swirl of questions that they will blindly sacrifice their heart and will to anyone who convinces them they’ve found the one true answer. The illusion of definitive answers is the ultimate silencer, but they can seem so attractive when the noise of accumulating questions overwhelms us.
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