The Story: Two years after the tragic death of their son, Will and Eden are reunited at a dinner party in the Hollywood Hills, where Eden and her new husband are sharing secrets of a cult they joined in Mexico.
Expectations: I don’t understand how Netflix’s predictions algorithms work, but they assured me that I would think this was a five-star movie. I saw it was directed by Karyn Kusama, who made JENNIFER’S BODY (which I liked), so I figured what the hell, give it a shot.
Reaction: You can usually tell in the first few minutes if you’re going to like a movie or not. Right away, the filmmaker did a pretty good job of setting an ominous—even oppressive—mood, so I was along for the ride.
Once the story began to unravel, I couldn’t help thinking of an earlier film called THE INVITATION, about an eccentric older man (played by Lance Henriksen) who invites a group of people to a lavish dinner party in order to kill them—and, paradoxically, save them. I had the sense that I was watching a film by someone who saw that earlier film, realized what a complete and utter mess it was, and decided to make a more impactful riff on the same idea.
The writing is fairly smart—the whole plot hinges on the casual acknowledgment that everyone in L.A. is “a little weird” but basically “harmless.” The obvious question is: Are these people just L.A.-crazy or are they crazy-crazy? (This is an important question I ask myself all the time….) The answer: You’re watching a horror movie, so they’re “Mansonian.” (The sexy one is even named Sadie….) Thankfully the movie doesn't tip its hat too soon.
On the whole, the story is predictable—but every twist and nuance is smartly orchestrated, and the filmmaker maintains that ominous / oppressive mood all the way to the end. The final scene puts a pretty ingenious twist on everything that has come before. Color me impressed.
Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: Any film that deals seriously with the death of a child is tough. The simple, intimate flashbacks in which Will remembers his son are more heart-rending than anything else in the film.