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Directed by Jeff Burton
Written by Jeff Burton
Starring Rick Kunzi, Johanna Lixey, Tom Strasz, Ryann Davey, Tricia Lyn Scott
Produced by Michael Grabemeyer, Alex Hencken, Erik F. Hill, Bill Vincent
I thought I’d never be writing this one.
It comes with a dark, and frequently disgusting, story of an ambitious production studio, dedicated seemingly to churning out as many horrible, disgusting movies as the video store shelves could handle. Brain Damage studios, operating out of Tempe, Arizona, poured tens of sad and sorrowful projects designed to churn the stomach and insult the intelligence, with cheaply produced efforts such as “The Zombie Chronicles,” “Terror Toons,” “Hell’s Highway,” and other such similar fare.
The last movie I saw come out under the Brain Damage aegis was almost two years ago, and it was a contemptible piece of fake-blood-drenched slime. It was vile beyond all practical definition of vile. In fact, the bulk of Brain Damage’s work has been low-budget slop at its worst for years now. Eventually, Brain Damage will start filling their video boxes with fake blood, so you too can join in the experience of being covered in the same glop as the cast.
And now, Brain Damage has resurfaced with “Invitation,” coincidentally the title of a fairly solid film featuring Lance Henriksen. And it’s a bad sign when the DVD starts off with information on how to join the “Brain Damage Fan Club.” Nothing like hawking cheesy crap wares before even starting in with the cheesy crap movie.
So what we have here is the story of a group of friends indulging in some fairly straightforward behavior. You know, playing baseball and persecuting the neighborhood fat kid. One of the friends goes home for dinner and, in a pinch, the remaining kids decide to let the fat kid play ball. Amazingly, the fat kid slams a long drive over the back field fence.
Now, before you start cheering for the fat kid, who has managed to salvage a come from behind win in baseball on par with Charlie Brown himself, the remaining ball playing friends mock the fat kid’s efforts, sending him to get the ball that he hit out of the park. The fat kid stumbles his way through the underbrush and reaches the ball, which he has hit into the middle of the roadway.
Triumphant, he seizes the ball and turns to return to the field.
And he gets hit by a truck.
Talk about your born losers.
But things aren’t over yet—no sir. We then fast forward to the future, where the ball playing gang has reunited at an old lodge. And while they’re all expecting something big from one of their old friends, what they actually get is…well…it’s really rather predictable.
First off, their casting choice for the fat kid role was really, really poor. This kid is only fat if your standard of normal weight is Somalian. Emaciated Somalian at that. This kid is really not that heavy. Sure, he’s wearing this really doofy looking pair of Gary Oldman-esque sunglasses from his shot on “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” but hey—is that reason to get picked on? No, says I, on behalf of every other poor schlub with shoddy fashion sense.
And the truck that hit him? It doesn’t even slow down. Not a tire screech or a swerving sound to be heard. Somehow, I genuinely can’t buy that someone would be driving along, see a kid run out in the road almost two hundred feet away (at least that’s how far it looks from the perspective we’re given), and not at least try not to hit him.
Worse yet, Burton’s favorite shot and plot device appears to be “Shove the camera into someone’s face while they deliver dialogue / react to important events / eat a sandwich.” I swear, Burton has managed to find a way in which the cheesy set design ceases to be an issue simply by virtue of not actually allowing anyone to see anything but the character’s faces. And seeing them in such incredible detail that we can see right down to the open pores.
The camera, you see, is a mere eight inches away from the character’s faces. And then, the all important sequence that truly makes this a Brain Damage flick crops up just before the forty two minute mark as an elderly woman is buried in the ground up to the neck and her head driven over with a snowblower. It’s not a Brain Damage flick until, at some point, chunky red goes flying at the screen.
However, I’ll admit that things get plenty creepy the farther in you go. Especially toward the end, which is the biggest, strangest part of the movie. The ending, you see, offers all manner of deranged plot twists, messy death sequences, and surprises of all manner. Despite a truly annoying sequence laden with strobe lights, the ending is still sublimely creepy. Not to mention a truly fantastic twist ending.
The special features include a behind the scenes featurette and an abundance of trailers for “Invitation,” “Vulture’s Eye,” “Hellbound,” “Strange Things Happen At Sundown,” “Vampire Sisters,” “Goregoyles: First Cut,” “The Tenement,” “The Shunned House,” “Goth,” “Hollywood Vampyr,” “Death Factory,” “Hell’s Highway,” and “Terror Toons.” Pretty much all of them are laden with blood, dismemberment, decapitation, naked chicks, blood, poor production values, shoddy scriptwork, mock satanic rituals, blood, and pretty much everything that’ll make you turn up your nose in disgust at the entire slate.
The “Goregoyles: First Cut” trailer alone made me regret the entire creation of surround sound. All in all, Invitation may have its problems, in fact it may have many problems. The last twenty minutes are pretty much the only high point in this otherwise slag heap of a movie. But, it is still one of if not the best things Brain Damage has going for it. Which really says something about the Brain Damage catalog of titles.
Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.
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