Jessica M. Thompson Brings the Female Gaze to Vampires in ‘The Invitation’

the invitation nathalie emmanuel

If you’ve been tuned into pop culture at all over the years, you’ve likely seen a vampire or two. From the original Dracula, to Interview With a Vampire, to Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, to Twilight, each generation, a new, beloved vampire text is released.

Now, Australian director and screenwriter Jessica M. Thompson wants to add a female perspective to the narrative around vampires, in her new horror film The Invitation, which stars Game of Thrones‘ Nathalie Emmanuel and Gossip Girl‘s Thomas Doherty.

Inspired by the Brides of Dracula — the female vampires sworn to worship and serve Dracula in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula — Thompson set out to create “a very feminist version of a vampire origin story”.

In The Invitation, Evie (Emmanuel) takes an at-home DNA test after the death of her mother, and soon discovers a long-lost cousin. He’s rich, white, and aristocratic, and he invites Evie to a lavish wedding in the English countryside, where her dream of connecting with family soon becomes a nightmare of survival.

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“I’ve loved vampire films and horror films from a very young age, and I felt like this was a take on the genre that I hadn’t seen before, and that I wanted to explore with fresh eyes,” Thompson told The Latch over Zoom. “Also, it was putting that contemporary spin on it, as well.”

Thompson, who co-wrote the film with Blair Butler, made sure to champion a female-led creative team working behind the camera, as well, with women taking the lead for The Invitation in cinematography (Autumn Eakin), costumes (Danielle Knox), production design (Felicity Abbott) and more. The results, Thompson said, can be seen throughout the film.

“I think it’s entirely visible!” Thompson enthused, adding: “This is why we need more women in genre filmmaking — and filmmaking in general — but I think horror stands at about 4%.”

Noting that it was “very important” to her to have a woman-led creative team, she continued: “I think ‘why not?’ because we’ve got fresh eyes, we’ve got a different perspective on life, on character, on story.

I think you can see that in the level of detail in the costumes, the hair and makeup styling,” she explained. “Nora Robertson and I, we really focused on different eras for each of the vampires and how to do their makeup, how to do their costumes, things like that.”

Perhaps even more visible to the audience, however, is the portrayal of Evie’s character in the film.

“I feel like there’s a very strong, deep-rooted female gaze throughout the whole film, and that was vitally important to me,” Thompson said.

The Invitation is in HOYTS cinemas now.

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