Obviously a central theme is Grief. Parents lose a child, especially in such an horrific fashion, everything is thrown off its kilter. Will has subsumed his process. Eden has been more active. First, a suicide attempt, then the seeming ‘happy talk’ of the cult. And yet in slapping Ben, her pills, and just all-around weird behavior, the intimation is pretty clear: While she may be more proactive in dealing with her maternal grief, it’s not necessarily better than Will in his deflected paternal grief.
A secondary yet related theme is Violence. The fact the son was killed in a violent, if unintentional act, opens the door to all of the violence which follows. And it doesn’t take much if one’s world has been unhinged by tragedy to tap into the latent rage / anger inside each of us.
And THAT is perhaps the scariest aspect of “The Invitation”. Beneath the thin veneer of yuppie civility and New Age psychobabble lies a cauldron of vindictive and murderous souls. Peel back the masks of ‘normalcy’ and what do you see: DEATH.
The thing is, the movie posits a fascinating question: How would WE, as parents, react to the sudden death of a child? OUR child? It’s not supposed to be that way, no parent should ever have to bury their children.
Yet it happens. As it did with Will and Eden. What is ‘typical’ and ‘normal’ doesn’t apply in this circumstance. And that plays to the strengths of “The Invitation” where everything feels unhinged — increasingly so — as the evening progresses.
But it all comes back to the central thematic touchstone: Grief.