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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pitt chapter.

Jessica M. Thompson’s movie The Invitation has had an unprecedented amount of buzz on BookTok. This buzz ranges from critique videos, “thirst traps” of leading antagonist Thomas Doherty, and even recommendations pushing their fellow booktokers to go see this movie based on its gothic romance vibes. For context, BookTok is a colloquial term for the section of TikTok that most readers typically find on their For You Page (FYP) based on the types of videos they interact with, other media they consume, and even their interactions with ads. However, although this movie is listed as a horror/thriller, a lot of these videos being consumed on social media allude to it being a dark romance. So which is it?

The movie opens up with Evie, played by Nathalie Emmanuel, a financially struggling artist stumbling through life in New York City after the recent loss of her mother. While feeling utterly alone, she submits a DNA test to track her ancestry and see if she has any other family to support her during this difficult time. To her surprise, she finds a distant cousin from England with whom she meets for lunch while he is on business in the city. When she meets him, he invites her to a family wedding to meet all of her distant relatives across the Atlantic. A few weeks later, Evie finds herself in England and is introduced to her family and the mysterious owner of the estate, Walter, played by Thomas Doherty. She is infatuated with him, but does he have a secret that will ruin it all?

TikTokers across the app like @aymansbooks and @emmakopang have posted similar montage videos of the leading antagonist Thomas Doherty. Both of these are centered around Doherty’s look and allure. Books like Fifty Shades of Grey and the newly popular A Court of Thorns and Roses series have opened the door for Millenials and Gen Z to seek out more dark romance novels. The male lead in these novels is usually hypermasculine, a little dark, and very attractive, and yet always has some type of redemption curve during the falling action of the novel. At first glance, it seems that Thomas Doherty’s character Walter Deville is no exception. It is no secret that this leading man is attractive, but the marketing of this film on TikTok, in conjunction with a large majority of the trailer leads you to believe that this seemingly horror film could take a turn into the dark romance category. Even Sony Pictures starts to play into this dark romance narrative by posting TikToks and other marketing materials like this.

Some other TikTok critics like @jstoobs go on to discuss how this is the perfect horror/thriller for women, written by women and directed by women. This alludes that any marketing of a gothic or dark romance was intentional and largely catered toward a female audience. This could be one of the reasons why The Invitation received such a poor rating on Rotten Tomatoes, on top of the fact that it is an August release, a historically bad month for box office releases. When taking a closer look at the comments on Rotten Tomatoes, most are written by male critics. Jstoobs touches upon this in her TikTok commentary, saying that “… because of that [the role of women in production and the film] a lot of the humor and subtext is lost on a majority male audience.”

As far as the horror and thriller aspect of this film goes, it keeps you on your toes with intrigue, bad decisions, and jumpscares. After seeing this film myself, I would say that it is the perfect hybrid between thriller and dark romance. But that still begs the question, will the two leading characters have a stereotypical happy ending at the end of this hybrid film? Will Walter Deville get his redemption curve? Only one way to find out.

Liz Acque

Pitt '23

I am a Psychology major at Pitt who loves to read and write. I love to use writing as an outlet and I think the art of storytelling is so important. Reading is the best escape for me and the way I typically choose to relax. Grateful to HC Pitt for giving me the opportunity to write!