Death By Invitation (1971)

Death By Invitation proves that “Women’s Lib” has always been a good thing.

During colonial times, Lise is dragged through a town square. Some of the locals wear KISS make-up and possibly Jordache jeans. Lise is bound and gagged, then burned at the stake. Jump to the 1970s. A fat ad executive with not one, but TWO lazy eyes gets stressed out at work while his affluent family is visited by a reincarnated Lise. Between silent dinner scenes and cops talking about doped-up delinquents, Lise stares into the camera and delivers two lengthy monologues about ancient feminist rites (“Greased and oiled bodies . . . eating . . . naked!”). She kills by fingernail scratching, suffers from flashbacks, and may or may not want to have sex with someone.

Before knuckling under mounds of porno in the 1980s, producer-director Leonard Kirtman uncorked our minds with three globs of grody horror. If Carnival Of Blood (1970) and Curse Of The Headless Horseman (1974) are the contrasting bookends of the trio (one amazing, one incredibly lazy . . . in a good way), then Death By Invitation (1971) is the middle ground. This time around, the addition of director Ken Friedman can’t fool anyone. Kirtman’s paws are sunk deep into this downbeat clump of artsy-yet-inept witchcraft recklessness.

Death By Invitation may be an incoherent mess, but nobody working on the movie was aware. That’s why it works. The film thrives on dedicated nonsense, but like Satan’s Black Wedding, there’s a whole lot to love: Lise looks like a model, but everyone else is a freak. Music cues jump from air organ simplicity to sappy library cues to pounding, epileptic freak-outs in a matter of seconds. The shots are atypical, ambiguous, and sometimes terrible. Most everyone answers questions with other questions. The film introduces bits of treading that would define Curse Of The Headless Horseman, but even the slowest (and most humorous) scenes are graced with a creepy, early 1970s magnetism.

Death By Invitation is dark, disorderly, and mostly confused, but it delivers to those who are patient. If you enjoyed Carnival Of Blood and appreciate Nick Millard’s films, this one’s giving you the eye.

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