dir. Duncan Birmingham
When married couple Adam (Ryan Hansen) and Margo (Melissa Tang) move into their new house in the Beverley Hills they throw an extravagant housewarming party. However from the get-go it’s clear they’re on different wavelengths: Adam is proud to the point of being obnoxious, desperate to impress his boss with their new digs, whilst Margo hides out in the kitchen, anxiously avoiding the crowd. So when the party finishes and they discover a couple who claim to be their new neighbours still present the evening’s tensions have only just begun.
To all initial impressions Tom (Timothy Granaderos) and Sasha (Perry Mattfeld) are the kind of people you’d want to live next to: young, good-looking, erudite and smart, they’re charmingly smooth, know their vinyl and quickly put Adam and Margo at ease. But as the evening draws on, and night-cap follows night-cap, something seems off. The question is of course at what point do risk being rude, and ask someone to leave your house?
Duncan Birmingham’s feature debut is a masterclass in socially awkward horror, the terror located not in overt images of masked killers wielding weapons but in faltering conversations, a desire to impress and the temptation to ignore red flags. Here its the creeping sense of unease and doubt – not wanting to over-react even when your gut is warning you something’s wrong – which fuels the story.
The quartet of central performances too are unanimously strong, the power between them constantly shifting as Birmingham’s script reveals repressed secrets and hidden motivations. It’s a playground of insecurities – just real enough to have audiences nervously squirming in their seats – that moves unstoppably towards crisis point.
A nightmare of slow boiling anxiety, Who Invited Them is what Jean-Paul Satre meant when he said “hell is other people”, whilst also reminding us that some folk are worth keeping close.
© Tim Coleman
Who Invited Them played at FrightFest 2022, and is available now to stream on Shudder.