The Invitation (2015) Ending Explained – A soon-to-be ‘Cult’ Classic

The Invitation Plot Summary

Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation is a 2015 horror thriller starring Logan Marshall Green about a man and his girlfriend (Emayatzy Corinealdi), who attend a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife and the new love in her life.

We learn early on that Will (Marshall Green) has not seen his ex in years. She apparently disappeared not long after their separation. So the idea of this dinner party feels tense right out of the gate. Kusama’s direction of slow tension-building moments that are fused with absolute claustrophobia are what make The Invitation’s ending a magnificent payoff.

What is the reason for the dinner party?

It’s hard to believe someone would want to go to a dinner party hosted by their ex wife, but The Invitation gives us some reasons in the film’s early scenes.

Will seems uncomfortable about it, but maybe this could be a way to tie up loose ends. When he encounters his ex, Eden (Tammy Blanchard), there is a sense that she has undergone some sort of spiritual awakening. Will seems to know Eden isn’t the one we see in the film. Through flashbacks, we see how volatile she is and also learn that they had a son. The evidence is there that he has since passed.

The party seems like a reunion of friends and maybe a way to have some closure between Eden and Will. But Will grieves his loss head-on and doesn’t hide it. It seems that Eden has tried to bury her grief but is pawning it off like she has found recovery through a strange new lifestyle.

It is here, amongst old friends, that Eden introduces us to David, her new squeeze. David brings some new strangers into the party, Puritt (John Carol Lynch) and Sadie (Lindsay Burdge). All three characters are outsiders to the main bunch, and all have sinister intentions.

Are they joining a cult?

Once the whole gang settles into the get-together, David shows them all a video of someone who looks oddly close to the leader of the infamous Heaven’s Gate cult. In the video, they watch someone slowly die in a bed. Afterwards, Dave and Eden carefully impose the ideas that they follow on their friends. Messages of free will and impulsively doing what makes you happy. Without saying it, they’re asking they’re friends to join a cult.

As the film carries on, we get moments of Will stepping away from the party and roaming around the house he once lived in. Moments that let you, the audience, know that something is very wrong here. Will has encountered seduction from Sadie, something that he brushes off. He sees what was his son’s room and has flashbacks to those moments when he was alive.

Then, while Will is outside getting some air, he spots Eden in her bedroom, hiding some sedatives in a bureau. This explains her upbeat mood at this tense dinner party.

What sets Will off?

Eventually, all the little hints of something wrong being afoot sets Will off. First off, the character Gina (Michelle Krusiec) has a boyfriend who never made it to the party. Will then gets a voicemail, due to the bad reception, from Gina’s boyfriend saying that he was there earlier, apparently. This then confirms that something bad is happening.

Will storms into the dinning room, confronting David and Eden, demanding an explanation of what’s going on. Suddenly, Gina’s boyfriend appears, unaware of what just happened. We learn that he had to leave earlier due to a work thing but planned to return. Will then has a slight breakdown, something he wanted to avoid. He wanted to be the stronger one on this night, but his judgment failed him.

It’s in these moments that make The Invitation a great film. We literally feel fooled as an audience too; we can’t pinpoint what is wrong, but we know something is off, and we are just as frustrated as Will is. He leaves the group for his son’s old room. He then catches David out back lighting a red lantern that just instantly feels ominous. And what follows as he snoops around in Eden and David’s bedroom is that he uncovers a video on a laptop from the supposed cult leader. 

What happens to the cult at dinner?

The film reaches its climax as Will returns to the party with the knowledge needed to disrupt everything. As a toast is made by everyone with wine, Will then yells at everyone not to drink it. He swats all the glasses out of people’s hands. Sadie rushes to attack him, yelling, “You ruined it!” He then tosses her towards the ground, where she hits the corner of a desk.

As pandemonium erupts, we are brought back to reality as we see Gina laying across the table, dying because she tried the wine. David starts shooting everyone in the house. Purrit grabs the gun and does the dirty work, picking them off one by one until the survivors fight back and kill him. Eden shoots Will but misses any fatal organs.

The error of what she has done alarms her, and she decides to shoot herself in the stomach, thus leaving David to be the last cult member left who is taken out by the group. 

What’s the big reveal?

A film like The Invitation needs a big payoff. It needs an ending that takes you out of the house and shows you that there are bigger things at play. Thankfully, it does just that.

In the film’s final moments, Will carries a dying Eden out to the back lawn of the house that overlooks what seems to be Los Angeles. As she tells Will that she misses her son, she then dies. Will and the other survivors look up at the hills around them. And at the houses, they see lanterns lit up, just like the one David lit up. This reveals that there’s a mass cult suicide taking place in the homes surrounding this one. 

The ending to The Invitation shows that it was small in scope, as it is a one-location film, primarily. Yet, it shows a bigger world in the movie’s final moments.

In the end, the film uses the concept of a cult to parallel the themes of two people who have a lot of grief. Will chooses to face reality and endure the loss of their child. Eden meanwhile, chooses denial of what they both have lost. It questions if one should try to end ones suffering or endure it. 

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