Invitation Only [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Unearthed Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (14th February 2023).
The Film

Wade Chen (Eternal Summer's Ray Chang) is one of life's "losers", working as an on-call chauffeur to be able to drive nice cars and dreaming of the high life. When he accidentally catches powerful client Mr. Yang (49 Days' Jerry Chih-Wei Huang) in the act with famous supermodel Dana (Japanese adult film actress Maria Ozawa, Erotibot), the wealthy man offers him an invitation to a high society party as an opportunity to network under the guise of going in his place as his nephew. The party is at a fashionable dive of a derelict warehouse and Chen is shocked to discover that he is not just a guest but one of five guests of honor including hotel chain executive Hitomi (100 Days' Julianne Chu), socialite Holly (Vivi Ho), political hopeful Lin (Joseph Ma), and concert pianist Richard Kao (Lust, Caution's Ying-Hsuan Kao). Their host Warren (Kristian Brodie) welcomes them into his social circle where it is possible for their wildest dreams to come true, and he initiates them by offering to grant the wish they wrote on their invitations: Chen's wish for an expensive sports car draws some suspicion from the other guests of honor since that should not be above his means as Yang's nephew, Hitomi thinking it was a joke asked for her lost childhood teddy bear, Kao wants Mozart's piano, Lin wants to be president, and Holly wants to be even more beautiful. Chen gets to test out his new sports car while Kao is led away to claim his prize. Searching for Kao, Chen, Hitomi, Holly, and Lin discover that the other party guests have disappeared and then they are presented with video evidence that their host knows that none of them are who they claim; that is, while Chen is not Yang's nephew, the others are posers lower in the ranks of their jobs than they present themselves. Upon discovering Kao's mutilated body, they attempt to escape only to be picked off one by one by a masked, knife-wielding figure who has plans for them in keeping with the "torture porn" zeitgeist of the film's produciton.

The Taiwanese Invitation Only starts out in an interesting fashion with Chen as a fish out of water trying to "be himself" with Hitomi only up to the point of not exposing his lie, making the viewer wonder just how many such phonies are among the guests and how many of the more well-healed seeming guests got that way by scamming their way to the top. When the identities of the guests of honor are exposed, the viewer at first wonders if they are being punished for their bad behavior in the context of some sort of ultraconservative morality: Kao is seen teaching piano and berating a student, Hitomi is seen pulling a "do you know who I am" at a sales counter, Lin is seen being berated by his superiors for a costly mistake, and Holly is seen as a care nurse for a randy, wealthy bedridden client. That Chen's "exposure" simply as a driver kowtowing to Yang reveals the real motive behind their punishment: having the audacity to want to be like their social and economic "betters" who treat their advantages as if they were a limited resource that others want to take under false pretenses. While the film's perspective is that of the have-nots – indeed, the more fervent pretenders suffer the most – the viewer only gets a few fleeting moments of righteous anger on the part of the victims amid much more stalking and slashing. The dramatic aspects are not helped by largely two-dimensional performances – Brodie seems to have been cast purely on his look and he is not helped at all by the sync-sound recording given his monotone delivery (which would surely have been redubbed by another English-speaking actor had the film been made a decade earlier), with Chang and Chu coming across sympathetically due to their more understated performances. The film drags during these more cliched bits and even becomes quite monotonous while the torture porn scenes are grueling but the filmmakers do seem to know when to cut away or at least to an extra-long shot either for matters or taste or to mask the artifice of the prosthetic make-up and digital effects. A climactic car chase and a gun versus battle ax final confrontation provide some much-needed excitement by that point, but the fates of the villains as brutal as they are do not quite provide the visceral thrill of turning the tables after the suffering of the victims. The photography is generally slicker than the cliché desaturated color grading; however, the more action-oriented sequences seem to make use of a GoPro-type camera that makes various cutaways and insert shots look quite cheap and "digital video" next to the more "filmic" look of the bulk of the film. Ultimately, Invitation Only has the novelty of being a "foreign" take on the "torture porn" genre but has very no more worth revisiting than much of its ilk.


Unreleased on DVD in the United States, Invitation Only was best sought out by English-speaking audiences as a Taiwanese 2-disc import which had English subtitles for the film but not the extras or a British DVD that managed to get through the BBFC uncut (the Hong Kong release had a DTS-EX 6.1 track but was had two scenes censored but inexplicably included in the extras as deleted scenes). The Taiwanese Blu-ray from more than a decade ago was English-friendly but its 5.1 audio tracks were out-of-sync with the picture leaving a 2.0 dowmix the only viable viewing option.

Unearthed Film's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray presumably comes from the same master since there is no ad copy about a new transfer. The film was shot in HDCAM, went through a 2K digital intermediate for grading, and projected in 35mm, and presumably the transfer comes from the DI. The cliché desaturated grading evinces some sharp, crisp imagery in shots that obviously were lit flat and graded down, but the cheapness of some shots photographed with more mobile action/sports cameras stands out as much for their ultra-wide angle distortion as their relative softness.


Audio options include the original Mandarin-language sync-sound Dolby Digital mix in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 along with an LPCM 2.0 stereo dowmix as well as a Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 dub. We did not notice any sync issues with the 5.1 track here so that may have been a fault of the Taiwanese Blu-ray encoding/authoring rather than the master. Much of the surround activity is atmospheric from the loud party scenes and the applause of the audience for their captive attractions while direction effects are utilized more for the action scenes with plenty of foley knife slashes and frenzied footfalls up and down corridors and across the frame. The optional English subtitles do not have any glaring errors.


Extras are rather spare starting with a vintage behind the scenes (6:03) piece in which director Kevin Ko – whose latest horror film Incantation went directly to Netflix streaming worldwide recently – discusses the need to employ make-up effects technicians trained in the United States who also brought prop body parts from a Florida supplier, while Ozawa and Huang recall the discomfort of the make-up effects appliances and body part molds, and Chang recalls the excitement and danger of doing his own driving stunts. The disc also includes a photo gallery (3:02), virtually-identical Mandarin theatrical trailer (2:18) and Spanish theatrical trailer (2:18), and trailers for four other Unearthed Films' Asian genre titles.


Not one of Unearthed Film's "Unearthed Classics" lines like some of the other Asian horror titles, Invitation Only does not come with a slipcover but it does have a reversible cover.


Invitation Only has the novelty of being a "foreign" take on the "torture porn" genre but has very no more worth revisiting than much of its ilk.


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