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  • Rev Horror

Invitation Only

Dir. Kevin Ko (2009)

Five people arrive at the worst party in the world, which is actually a celebration of torture and murder.


Billed as Taiwan’s first slasher movie, Invitation Only is a blood-soaked and brutal Asian horror film from Kevin Ko, who also directed the outstanding Incantation. While critics and fans alike categorize the film as torture porn, and there are certainly some ruthless kills, Invitation Only is really more of a straight-up inventive slasher until the final act. That certainly isn’t a complaint in my eyes, as I’m a huge slasher fan and I’m always looking for one with an interesting storyline that hasn’t really been done before. While the film plays around with the typical genre tropes and jumpscares, it does so in a stylized way that helps it earn its place in the genre as more than just a copycat.

There are some parts, though, that make it a bit of a copycat. Clearly inspired by Hostel and it’s first sequel in its portrayal of murder as a spectacle for the rich, Ko pulls a few punches that Roth probably would not. The late-2000’s Achilles slash that was seemingly everywhere is shown, but not in the disgusting detail as in Roth’s film. Some of the stabbings occur almost off-screen, with quick camera cuts so as not to dwell on the knife thrusts. During a particularly disturbing scene where a man has jumper cables attached to his nethers, it’s done through underwear rather than attached directly to skin. Granted, that one is perhaps a bit more understandable due to the nudity that would have to be involved, but still… hard to imagine Eli Roth makes that choice. All that being said, there are definitely some hardcore gore elements at play here, and the finale is about as brutal as mainstream horror gets. There’s even a beheading with a medieval battle ax, which is all kinds of awesome.

The film’s critique of class, how the rich take advantage of the poor and the choices that people will make to get ahead, is intriguing, though certainly nothing new in the realm of horror. There’s a bit of a spin, about revenge sought through extra-legal means. One of the rich folks had a tragedy in their past, where someone kidnapped his sister to get money from his rich father. Each of the members of our party have some secret sin, something that they’ve done to draw the ire of the people who invited them to this murder party. The film is a bit preachy at times, taking the time-honored tradition of making it seem like the bad guys kinda have a point, but it’s awful hard to sympathize with people who would torture others for relatively benign faults. I guess it’s kinda like the road rage of the filthy rich.

Invitation Only is a creative and fun slasher, and it fits perfectly into Unearthed Films’ slate of releases. It’s a little-seen Asian horror, a slasher through and through, and it’s got enough gore to please people who are just looking for that as well. One of the downsides of some of Unearthed’s releases is that a lot of times you’re largely only there for the gore. The movie itself may not be that good, but there’s plenty of blood and guts. For gorehounds, this is hardly a criticism: the gore is what you’re there for, and the plot, if any, is just a bonus. Invitation Only doesn’t struggle in this area, and it’s a movie that is heavy on plot (or at least as heavy as a slasher film gets) with gory kills as a bonus instead. It’s a God’s-honest movie. For gory horror lovers, this is a wonderful surprise, and it’s a great example of how Unearthed Films is trending more towards legitimate movies than just forgotten gore classics. It’s another impressive outing, and this is one that should be watched out for. Kevin Ko is a phenomenal director, and one that I personally will be looking out for in the future. Incantation made my Best of 2022 List, and while this one doesn’t contain quite as many scares, it’s still well worth a watch for fans of gory slasher flicks.

Who this movie is for: Gory horror fans, Slasher lovers, Murder tourists

Bottom line: Another great one from Unearthed Films, Kevin Ko’s Invitation Only is an excellent Taiwanese slasher that shouldn’t be missed for fans of the genre. It’s a bit tamer than you’d probably expect, but it’s an impressively well-done film and an excellent directorial debut from a rising star in the horror industry. It’s available for the first time on blu-ray, and it’s well worth a pickup for collectors of physical media. It’s a must-see for fans of foreign slashers, and there are definitely some scenes that will make you cringe. Check it out at Unearthed Films

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