Who doesn’t like a good vampire flick? How about a mediocre one? I will say “The Invitation” is fun, just not scary, and it looks terrific but, in the end, it lacks frights, gore, and eroticism. It’s more “Twilight” than “True Blood” so maybe those teens faced with the dilemma of choosing Team Edward or Team Jacob a decade ago will swoon over droopy-eyed bloodsucker Walter Deville (Thomas Doherty), a British Lord who’s pining for struggling American artist Evie Jackson (Nathalie Emmanuel) in the film written by Blair Butler and directed by Jessica M. Thompson.
Whether you know Nathalie Emmanuel from “Game of Thrones” or the “Fast and Furious” franchise, she is the best part of this gothic horror film as the too sweet, too gullible Evie who takes a DNA test after her mother passes away and discovers she has a long-lost British cousin named Oliver (Hugh Skinner). He immediately flies to America to meet Evie and invite her to a wedding in England so she can meet the rest of her new family — all expenses paid.
Suddenly Evie is off to merry ole England with cuz Ollie as the film turns into a horror version of “Downton Abbey” complete with an English country manor, servants, valets, and an elaborate bell system as seen in the opening credits of Julian Fellowes long-running PBS series.
A bit more dashing and debonair than Lord Crawley, Earl of Grantham, we meet Lord Deville or Walter who takes a shining to Evie, their budding romance becomes the talk of the manor. Along the way we meet bridesmaids Viktoria (Stephanie Corneliussen) and Lucy (Alana Boden) — remember Evie is there to attend a wedding — but no bride. If you’ve seen the trailer then you know Evie, unbeknownst to her, is the intended bride and Lord Walter is the groom. She finds out at a dinner party where Walter proposes a toast to his new bride by drinking the blood of a servant whose throat was cut in front of Evie.
The supporting cast includes Sean Pertwee as head butler, Mr. Field who is menacing but not as scary as “Downtown’s” Mr. Carson, and Courtney Taylor as Evie’s best friend Grace. If you haven’t seen the trailer Evie and Grace are black, everyone else is white, and so the vampire flick waits for the last act to go down the Jordan Peele “Get Out” route.
I enjoyed the cast, especially Emmanuel, and it was better than watching sparkly bloodsuckers in the “Twilight” franchise. However, “The Invitation” plays it too safe. It’s not steamy enough to appeal to adults who like “True Blood” and it’s not gory enough for the horror crowd, and most of all it’s not scary, the CGI effects are solid, but we’ve seen them before. It could use an R-rating but if you’re a fan of “Downton Abbey” and only dabble in the horror genre, this may be your ticket.
(2 ½ stars)
Now showing in theaters