Who Invited Them - FrightFest International Premiere
Director: Duncan Birmingham
Starring: Ryan Hansen, Melissa Tang, Perry Mattfeld, Timothy Granaderos
Written by: Duncan Birmingham
Produced by: Mary Pat Bentel
Cinematography by: Bruce Thierry Cheung
Original Score by: Benjamin Balcom
After moving into a huge house in the Hills, Adam and Margo organise a housewarming party, which isn't quite as successful as they'd hoped. When they discover a young couple hanging around after the party has ended, the foursome embark on a crazy night that unravels some dark secrets.
There's a special place in hell for people who can't take the hint at parties who end up hanging around until the wee hours of the morning and in Duncan Birmingham's funny but creepy unconventional home invasion film he takes this lack of awareness to the next level that ultimately ends in disaster.
Adam (Ryan Hansen) is throwing a lavish housewarming party and has invited almost everyone he knows and although there's a huge crowd of partygoers getting drunk in his living room, there's a bunch of important people who haven't bothered to show up. His wife Margo (Melissa Tang) isn't too fussed on showing off their new home because she still hasn't decided whether or not she is super happy about moving. Their son Dylan is staying at a friends house so that means the party can go all night if necessary. But after people start leaving (or escaping) Adam and Margo decide to call it a night. That is until they realise that young couple Tom and Sasha are still in the house and things get even weirder when Adam and Margo also realise that neither of them know who the hell this young couple are.
With a title like 'Who Invited Them' the film doesn't try to hide the fact that there is something suspicious about this couple because of course that's what the premise is, but it invites the audience to attempt to guess what the hell is really going on here. Tom and Sasha are liars, that's sort of established early on and Tom especially is an exceptional salesman. He is selling a story to Adam and Margo and to us, the viewers too but we don't know what the real story is yet.
That is until there's a moment when Adam explains why he got such a great deal on the house, unbeknownst to his wife, and then the true identity of Tom and Sasha begins to fall into place. The issue with this is that I'm not entirely sure that we needed to find this particular information out this early because it really doesn't take a rocket scientist to put two and two together and guess the "twist".
With that being said the film still remains to be a lot of fun and the journey to Adam and Margo's discovery of the revelation is enjoyable to watch, albeit very frustrating at times. There were moments when I wanted to scream at the screen and that doesn't happen very often. Massive props to the four main actors who all have fantastic chemistry and feel like they were made for these roles. Ryan Hansen and Melissa Tang bounce off each other so well it feels like they've been acting together for years. Hansen's comedy timing is spot on and Tang is just fascinating to watch. While Adam is a little over the top, Margo is a bit more grounded, questioning things like an actual real person would. But the real stars of the show here are Timothy Granaderos as Tom and Perry Mattfeld as Sasha. Two entitled L.A. wannabe socialites who rhyme off a long list of false claims to make themselves seem legitimate. Tim and Perry play these roles to perfection. They are the kind of people I absolutely hate in real life. Materialistic. Delusional. Blatant bullshitters with zero modesty. But the worst thing is that they are the kind of people that Adam wishes he and Margo were.
At its core 'Who Invited Them' is a film that explores the themes of gaslighting and toxic relationships. It's a very serious topic clearly but its addressed in a comedic fashion by having the two couples interact on various levels with each other, initially as a group of 4 but then splitting them up. Most of the film is just one long conversation split into very small intriguing parts that help to bring these characters to life and make the inevitable violent finale more anticipative. It addresses the flaws of human nature and pokes fun at that "fairytale" Hollywood Hills lifestyle. The second half of the film feels like an elastic band being slowly stretched to its limit and as we hit the 3rd Act we really expect it to snap, but it doesn't. Not just yet. When the snap does eventually happen and the violence finally unfolds as we expected, it was difficult to take it too seriously then the film kinda just ends and we never really get a resolution.
Despite a few small gripes 'Who Invited Them' remains a thoroughly enjoyable watch with charismatic performances from all four leads and a clever, witty script that offers genuinely funny moments but also helps to prolong the tension.
- Gavin Logan
'Who Invited Them' received its International Premiere at FrightFest 2022 on August 26th and will be available to stream on Shudder September 1st