Thursday, Oct 6 2022

The Invitation Interview


We Hope You Can Attend

The Invitation

By Jessica Dwyer

The Invitation is, without spoiling anything, a vampire
film.  This was made obvious from the trailer.  But the film itself has a lot more going on
than you may think and uses the vampire genre in a way that’s fantastic to
behold. 

I really enjoyed what writer and director Jessica Thompson
did with the film and how she used the mythology within it in a way that’s new
and also pays homage to the classic stories that came before.  It manages to bring, dare I say, new blood,
into the mix.

The script was one that had been floating around Hollywood
for a few years and I had actually heard talk of it before I realized that The
Invitation was in fact that script, originally written by Blair Butler.  At that time, it was called The Bride (not to
be confused with the Frankenstein retelling of the same name that starred Sting
and Jennifer Beals.)  It focused on one
of Dracula’s brides and apparently the title was a problem, not playing well
enough to men. 

Eventually the script found Thompson who loved it and who
retooled it with some ideas of her own. 
What The Invitation does is bring a mix of old and new together, updating
the vampire story we’re all familiar with in a way that works and talks to some
of the more modern horrors that are going on around us.

The movie follows Evie, a young woman who has just lost her
mother to cancer and feels adrift without her family.  On a whim she takes a DNA test and is
contacted by a long lost relative.  Evie
finds herself swept up into a world of extravagance and very odd people.  Alone and scared, Evie slowly discovers that blood
relations can truly be hell. 

The Invitation is a great flick.  It reminded me of Ready or Not but with vampires,
the Great Gatsby for a bit of fun and a lot of Hammer.  I’m every inch a vampire fan and this hit all
the right notes with me.  Nathalie
Emmanuel as Evie brings a realism and likability to the character, and you are
rooting for her the whole way.  Thomas
Doherty seems genetically engineered for his role as Walter.  Stephanie Corneliussen and Alana Boden as
Viktoria and Lucy respectively and stunning and bring a touch of heartbreak
too.  Sean Pertwee as always is awesome
as Mr. Fields (which I’m very positive isn’t his full name.)  He really needs to be in all the things.

I got to speak to fellow Jessica and vampire fan Jessica Thompson
about The Invitation.  Turns out she’s
also a Pertwee fan too.  Besides having
great taste and a great name, she’s damn talented and I think we can expect
even more beautiful and possibly bloody things from her in the future. 


HH

First off, I really loved the added and expanded mythology
you created for this specific story. Where did the idea for this come from for
you on expanding the bride’s aspect and how you retooled it?

JT

Yeah. So basically, Blair Butler, who was the original
writer, her script came to me in January 2020, and I've been wanting to tell a
horror story. And when I saw that this was an origin story of a bride of
Dracula, I was just like, oh, this is great. I've never seen it on the big
screen. And so, I was immediately joining in that way. But then I felt what I
really worked on with Blair and added to the script myself was kind of like the
layers of that sumptuous world of these people. There's a strict hierarchy and
it's literally the rich eating the poor. And that, to me, was something that I
found really compelling to explore. This kind of group that includes humans who
are supporting and propping up this old-world order all to each other's mutual
benefit. I thought it was something that kind of is very telling and something
that also reflects maybe the society we live in.

HH

Yeah, very much. It's very appropriately timed. One thing
that I really loved about this, and I wanted to ask you about, was there's very
much a Hammer film vibe to this story and the look of the film. And I wondered
if you could talk about bringing that vibe into a modern age and did that
actually inspire this at all? And what is the balancing act of keeping the
classic with this new?

So, to me, it's like I definitely wanted to create a
contemporary film, but I wanted to stay true to the gothic origins. So, finding
little ways to do that. For instance, every single light fixture in the house
is a modern light fixture. And quite some of them are extremely modern, like
almost postmodern doing little things like that, creating little visual cues
and visual design that really shows the kind of world that we're coming into. So,
it's not that we're stepping back in time, it's that these people have been
around for hundreds of years and brought their time with them. To me, I think I
have always been drawn to beautiful cinematography and beautiful imagery, and
that's really important for me to show that kind of gothic decadence. But it's
definitely to me, it was creating that balance because I'm someone who
appreciates all those original films as well. I love Bram Stoker's
Dracula.  I love Interview with the
Vampire and all these films. But making sure I feel Evie is our key into the
world and that she's a modern young woman. She's a young artist struggling in
New York.

She just recently lost her mum. She does a DNA test. I think
that's definitely a modern tool to get into the story. But it's literally the
motif is blood, right? So, it's this incredible through line. And I think Evie
is really the key to holding onto our modern, contemporary version of the world
while still keeping it true to its origins.

HH

Well, and kind of hopping around here, but the casting for
this film was excellent. I absolutely love Sean Pertwee. I am a fan of his father's
as well. And he had played a vampire in a movie called House That Drip Blood
years ago, his father had.  Can you talk
about finding the right fits for these characters? Because Nathalie was just
amazing as Evie. I love Thomas as quote, unquote Walter. I absolutely loved it.
Can you talk about finding these people for these characters?

JT

I mean, Nathalie, I was always in mind for the role. Always
had her in mind. She really blew me away with Missandei, her portrayal of
Missandei in Game of Thrones. And I felt like she was someone who hadn't been
able to show off her chops yet. She really hadn't been given kind of a full
dramatic role that she could really embrace and dive into and kind of show the
world how talented she really is. And I'm so glad that Evie, the character,
spoke to her after she read the script. We had a chat and I told her about my
vision for the film. And I'm so glad that she's been an incredible partner to
work with. And Thomas, to be honest, I didn't know who he was. I had not watched
anything he'd been in. He auditioned for the role, and I literally stopped what
I was doing. I was like, who is this? He's the one, it's not just visually.
He's obviously so gorgeous and has these striking features, but it's the way he
commands a space and he's positioning in that space. And I was really drawn to
him. There's something really mesmerizing about him, which is exactly the
character.

So, it's like perfect. And in terms of Sean, I'd known of
Sean from Gotham. And that voice, I just can't get over his voice. I could
literally have that man read me, like, the menu for a restaurant and it would
just sound incredible. So that's why I wanted Sean honestly, the way he played
similar roles as well, so I knew he could do it. And then Stephanie Corneliussen,
who plays Victoria, one of the brides, it's really funny, but I saw her in Mr.
Robot, and I remember I wrote her name down because sometimes you do that as a
director, you're watching things, you're like, who's that? And you quickly look
up who that is and keep your in mind for things. And I remember keeping it in
the back of my mind for a role. And what's so funny is when Mr. Robot came out,
it premiered at South By Southwest the same year that my first feature film
premiered at South By. And she had watched my film then, and she had told her
agent that she wants to work with me. So, five years. It was funny. We didn't
know each other, but then five years later, here we are.

I finally got to offer her a role, and she was like 100%.
Yes, it's you. I've been wanting to work with you. So that's an absolute
delight.

HH

That's amazing. So, I have to ask because I noticed this,
and I don't know if it was meant to be or if it just happened to be the angle.
I noticed that Walter's ears in certain scenes looked very batlike like.
Pointy. Was that meant to be or was that just happenstance?

JT

That is Thomas's ears. Those are Thomas's ears. He's got
like an elf. I swear he's born from elves, is what I think. It's very funny
because my sister was like, oh, you put prosthetic ears on him. And I'm like,
no, those are his. But I think I agree. He's got this striking cheek, striking
jaws, striking. He's kind of like elven.

HH

I think he totally is. And he's got those eyes. The eyes
sell it.

JT

It very kind of light gray blue eyes. No, sometimes it's
like, hard to whenever he was on set, and I have to say Stephanie Corneliussen
also has really striking features. Sometimes I'd be so mesmerized with all of
my beautiful cars, but I forgot to pull cut.

HH

No, just stand there for five minutes.

JT

Exactly. They are beautiful humans. I think I have the most
beautiful cast in the world.

HH

Oh, they all were gorgeous. And you filmed them just
strikingly. There are so many beautifully lush scenes in this movie. I loved
it. I'm a vampire nut. And this was like my kind of porn, I'm just going to
say.

JT

What's your favorite vampire film other than this one?

HH

Oh, God, that's like asking me my favorite child. This one
was great, but all time, I think I would go with Fright Night just because it
was such a bridge between the modern and the old school, and it was so perfect.
And Chris Sarandon was just amazing. And Roddy McDowell is a legend.

JT

I love that. And also, all the body horror in it.

HH

Evil Ed, that transformation. It's just so painful to watch.

I wanted to ask about because you snuck in some very modern
terror for women in this day and age, which was the way Walter and company was
able to get all of that information. And I was curious, did he mold himself in
a way, knowing what kind of using her social media and all of that. Did he mold
himself in a way to be more attractive to her because she's wearing an
Outlander shirt in one of these scenes, very predominantly. Was he making
himself into this lord of the manor, heroic type to seduce her?

JT

Absolutely. You definitely picked up on that. You're the
only person to ask that question, which I think is great. Yeah, definitely.
This is a man I mean; this is the most diabolical predator of all time. Right?
He's going to mold himself. And he needs her the way that I made the lore in
the story, that he needs these three bloodlines to survive. He needs these
three bloodlines to stay young and to live eternally. He needs her to agree to
this kind of crazy scenario. So, he's going to mold himself and do whatever it
takes, of course. And so, for instance, when he gets in and he realizes that
showing off his money really doesn't matter to this woman, that's something
that she doesn't care about necessarily, he decides to change his tact. And
that, to me, is like the height of a predator. And yes, like you said, we've
got these, like, the tinder swindler. And I mean, I listen to a lot of podcasts
about those kinds of crazy stories, and it's not too far from the truth. And
that's also what I wanted to show in this film. To me, it is a me too movie
without making it about a Harvey Weinstein or whatever, without making it about
one of those diabolical people that we know about.

That's true. These people are true. And using the metaphor
of Dracula is perfect to me.

HH

Well, I love that you said metaphor of Dracula.  But I wanted to ask this was I love how
endlessly adaptable the vampire archetype, and it's sort of the perfect story
piece to use for so many different metaphors and tales. And this one, can you
talk about that as a writer? How that specific mythology and legend is so
perfect a storytelling tool?



JT

Yeah, I think there's something about vampire that really
attracts humans. During the writing process of this film and the pre-production,
I really did a deep dive into vampire lore and kind of where the origins are.
And really a lot of the ancient cultures around the world have stories about
people coming alive after they've died and feasting on humans. And there's
something about it. I think it's because there is attraction and this danger.
It's two sides of the same coin. They look like us, but they're better looking.
They're stronger than us. They're smart, often smarter than us. And there's
something about that that draws us in, but at the same time, it's that danger.
We're drawn to the danger. And that's why I think it's timeless. That's why we
see so many renditions of vampire, especially like vampire romance is like,
such a big part of the modern storytelling. And I think it makes sense to me
because it seems like humans have always been fascinated with these creatures.

HH

It's also inherently creepy that across the world it's so
closely tied together, all of these stories. How did that happen when yeah,
exactly.

JT

It does make you want to just.... Maybe they're real.

HH

You don't know.

JT

You're right. How do all these ancient cultures have the
exact same kind of parable and story? It's pretty wild.

HH

It totally is. Jessica, thank you so much. Thank you for
this movie. But first, thank you for being a Sean Pertwee fan girl like I am,
because he deserves it.

JT

I agree!