Was the Castle Used to Film ‘The Invitation’ Actually Haunted? We Asked the Stars

the invitation nathalie emmanuel

In The Invitation, Evie (Game of ThronesNathalie 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.

Directed by Jessica M. Thompson, who co-wrote the film with Blair Butler, The Invitation is based on the Brides of Dracula, which makes it a tale (almost) as old as time. With a woman-led creative team working in key roles behind the camera, there were plenty of elements that first drew Emmanuel into the film.

“I just loved this idea of telling a really old story in a modern context, and having it be very female-centred and female-focused,” Emmanuel told The Latch over Zoom, alongside co-star Thomas Doherty (Gossip Girl).

“We really are talking about the exploitation of women, women of colour, poor people,” Emmanuel explained. “It all sort of crashes into these ideas that are very, very modern but have always been issues. It shows how old stories often are still really relevant and I just enjoyed that.”

Noting that she “felt very connected” to her character “quite quickly”, Emmanuel added: “Evie as a character has such an amazing journey and she’s this creative type of person just looking for connection and family, and all of these things are very important to me.”

Another big drawcard was the lavish sets, complete with luxurious costuming.

“The sets and the costumes and all of that, it was like —” Emmanuel gushed.

“Very theatrical,” Doherty chimed in. “It’s almost like an old play with the costumes and the sets.”

“Yeah!” Emmanuel enthused. “And that’s fun, as actors. You’re like ‘I get to dress up and be in these fabulous sets?! Absolutely!’ It was a lot of fun for me.”

As for Doherty, the appeal lay in the challenge of trying to humanise his character.

“I have always loved playing characters, and I always loved being able to find a crazy character but trying to make it more empathetic, make it more relatable,” Doherty explained. “No matter how evil someone is, there’s definitely nuanced traits, you know, in a human being — although my character is an exception to that!” 

Doherty and Emmanuel laughed.

“But generally speaking, being able to find those human qualities that do exist and trying to see how everyone does have the propensity to be a certain way,” was the appeal, Doherty clarified.

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Filmed on location at Nádasdy Castle, about an hour outside Budapest, Hungary, the castle was originally chosen by Thompson for its Tudor-style architecture, which gave it an English look. What sealed the deal, however, was the discovery that it was once owned by Madam Báthory’s great-great-grandson.

Báthory was a Hungarian noblewoman and convicted serial killer who people called ‘Countess Dracula” and ‘The Blood Countess’, and is believed to be one of the first recorded female serial killers.

Obviously, we had to ask: was the castle haunted? Giving off spooky vibes?

“So there’s various stories about the history of that house, I feel like I heard a few different ones,” Emmanuel began.

“I think it was just, it was old! And it was in the middle of nowhere in Hungary,” Doherty interjected.

“But it was beautiful!” Emmanuel continued. “Really stunning, and there were a couple of rooms — I definitely am like, very sensitive to the energy of a room or a space, and people, and I walked into a certain room and I was like ‘NOPE!’ and I just kind of left, I was like ‘I’m okay! I’m just gonna go back to where all the people are!’”

Doherty laughed, recalling that he found Emmanuel in one of the rooms trying to bring some positive energy into the area and deter any potential nefarious spirits.

“I went for a wander, I was just walking about the castle, palace, thing, and it was weird. I walked upstairs into a room and Nathalie was just like, there was a candle lit, there was some music on,” he laughed.

“I’m sorry, I am here for good vibes only!” Emmanuel exclaimed. “Let’s just bring the positive light into this space!”

She laughed.

“I mean, who knows what went down there?! Who knows?! Whatever it was, I just need to let everyone know, that we’re here for good vibes only!” she explained.

“I had some scenes underneath the castle, as well,” Emmanuel recalled, “and there was one room that I had to start in, and then run, and there was just this one corner and it was really dark, and even with all the lights I was like ‘I can’t see what’s in that corner’, and it kind of freaked me out!”

“Not in like, a serious way,” she clarified, “because obviously we were all there and it was safe, but you know, when you’re in a dark, dark dungeon underneath the ground, you can’t help but let your imagination run away with you.”

The Invitation is in HOYTS cinemas now.

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