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Shudder Secrets: Who Invited Them Explained

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Adam (Ryan Hansen) and Margo (Melissa Tang) just moved into a swanky neighborhood after finding a great deal on an impressive home. It’s in such a rich neighborhood that their old friends feel out of place at the housewarming party. They’re not exactly the type to hobnob with the elite.

However, the party stretches until near dawn after two strangers claiming to be neighbors, Tom (Timothy Granaderos) and Sasha (Perry Mattfeld), insist on one more nightcap and one more nightcap. This is the premise of writer/director Duncan Birmingham’s debut feature, Who Invited Them. The Shudder original is a well-scripted psychological thriller that makes you think twice about how well you know your neighbors.

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Who Invited Them opens during Adam and Margo’s housewarming party. The get-together features a mix of their artsy friends and some of Adam’s co-workers, including his boss, Neil (Christoper Chen). However, no one wants to stay too long, especially Adam and Margo’s old friends, Frank (Barry Rothbart) and Teeny (Tipper Newtown). They’re not 1 percenter types who live in Canyon Heights. Yet, even Adam’s co-workers leave early, including his boss, to his dismay. Immediately, something feels off about the situation. Adam and Margo’s friends don’t vibe well with the elite, and no matter how hard Adam tries, he’ll never be part of that click. It’s clear that the couple doesn’t belong in “the hills” neighborhood.

However, when they meet Sasha and Tom, the last guests standing, they decide to keep the party going, downing one drink after the other and spinning records long into the night. For Adam, Tom represents a lifestyle he covets, a chance to fit in with the 1 percent. Tom even promises to invite him on a golf outing with his rich buddies. For Margo, Sasha represents who she used to be when she was in a band and snorted lines of coke every now and then. In Sasha and Tom, Adam and Margo see glimpses of who they’d truly like to be. This only worsens Margo’s disdain for the neighborhood and Adam’s irksome ambitions that ignore her needs.

Who Invited Them and A Dire Need to Impress

So much of this feature is about putting on a mask to impress others. Adam desperately wants a bigger house in an impressive neighborhood. Margo, meanwhile, tells him that they need to be careful not to overextend themselves. She also wonders what was so bad about their old place. Adam bemoans the fact that his boss didn’t stay at the party longer so he could have talked to him about company expansion. It’s like he threw the party as a means to get a promotion at work and impress the higher-ups. When they leave, he frets they didn’t have fun.

Tom seems like everything Adam wants to be. He wears a slick suit. He claims his bubble and social circle contain “real pricks,” specifically CEOs. Adam responds he wishes that was his bubble, too. All he cares about is climbing up the social ladder.

Margo, meanwhile, masks who she used to be in front of Adam. At one point, when she has a cigarette with Sasha, Adam says, “Smoking again. Who are you?” It’s clear that she gave up her ambitions to either impress him or make him happy, but it causes so much strain in their relationship, which Tom and Sasha bring to the surface, playing a psychological game.

If Tom represents or pretends to represent the American capitalist, Sasha represents a free-spirited, coke-snorting, sexually aggressive character that Margo wants to be, at least in small doses. She misses that type of inhibition. What’s so unsettling about this film is how well Tom and Sasha use Adam and Margo’s history and relationship woes to wage psychological warfare. Adam and Margo don’t even know they’re doing it throughout much of the runtime. All four performers knock it out of the park, but especially Mattfeld and Granaderos. They make chilling and cunning villains.

Who Invited Them and the Trappings of the American Dream

The genre has long addressed the horrors of the American dream and even home ownership. But Who Invited Them puts a unique spin on it. Adam is such an unlikeable character at first, sucking up to his boss at the housewarming party that he nearly forgets his old friends and who he used to be. When he complains to Tom that Margo thinks they’re in over their heads, Tom responds, “That’s the American way,” before adding that Adam is cutthroat, and he likes that. Adam has such a desire to move up the ladder that Tom uses it to his advantage and doesn’t have much difficulty fooling Adam.

Meanwhile, the house itself has a sordid history. It’s a murder home, but so desperate to live in the neighborhood, Adam withholds the true story from Margo, which Sasha and Tom later use to their advantage. So Adam’s dream home has its own blood-soaked history, which is another inversion of the American dream, just like the facade that Sasha and Tom put on, claiming to be the wealthy neighbors next door when they’re anything but that. They just know which mask to wear to appeal to Margo and Adam’s true desires as a means to turn them against each other. That’s what makes them such unnerving villains.

Overall, Who Invited Them is a well-scripted feature. Its ending is a little predictable, but the performances make for plenty of tension. This is a little smarter than the average home invasion flick, an entertaining 90 minutes with plenty to say about the American dream and that drive for success. The next time you have a housewarming party, make sure everyone who shows up is actually on the guest list.

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