This is billed as a home invasion movie, though it takes a long time to get to the duct tape and brandished kitchenware business – and has a neatly-teased reversal about who exactly are the invaders in this home. Adam (Ryan Hansen) and Margo (Melissa Tang) have bought a swish pad in an upscale Los Angeles neighbourhood and throw a huge housewarming party to show the place off – though Adam, eager to impress his friends (and his boss), hasn’t told Margo, who has quit her rock chick dreams to support his career trajectory, that the reason they’ve got the place so cheaply is that something dreadful once happened here. As the guests depart, the hosts notice a chic couple – Tom (Timothy Granaderos) and Sashs (Perry Mattfeld) – that neither of them know, and the intruders claim to be the neighbours, drawn in to complain about their driveway being blocked by guests’ cars and staying around to enjoy the party.
The smooth, confident, well-groomed, affluent party-crashers act as if they have much more natural right to be in this enclave of the wealthy than the newcomers, but also start to play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? head games with Adam and Margo’s marriage, offering drugs, sex, business advantage, revelations and sly smiles. The hosts get uncomfortable but try excruciatingly to remain polite, but the uninvited guests settle in for what seems like the long haul – blithely ignoring hints and outright demands that they leave, and coming over all hurt in way that wrongfoots the hosts, who start to question why they are in their own house, this section of the city and this uncomfortable situation. Meanwhile, the friend with whom the couple’s daughter is staying the night drives around LA with a Chekhovian rifle in the car boot, trying to find the luxurious but anonymous house among so many other lookalike places – desperate to retrieve a stuffed toy without which the kid won’t sleep.
Written and directed by Duncan Birmingham, Who Invited Them cunningly mixes mysteries you’ll see through – the identity of the party-crashers isn’t too difficult to guess – with feints and twists that are more surprising. It’s nice to see a thriller that is as unsettling for what doesn’t happen as what does. The four central performances are perfectly calculated – the hosts a mess of insecurities just waiting to be exposed, the guests sinister yet always deeply plausible. It’s more a comedy of unease than an outright horror, but all the more effective for that.