I'll try my best to be vague enough so as not give away too many spoilers, Scout's honor (I was never a Girl Scout).
A personal favorite trope of mine is the “dinner and a show.” Awkward, uneasy, or terrifying dinner scenes (party or not) can leave a lasting impression and eat away at you long after they've ended. Honestly, throw in a tense table scenario and I'll eat that shit up. Now be a dear and please pass me the fucking asparagus.
What’s on the menu? A good guess would be past regrets with potentially deadly consequences, or at least an exuberant amount of stiff silences. Many of these scenes (or whole films) are arguably inspired by Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf while others depict storylines more along the lines of House on Haunted Hill, or And Then There Were None. Whether it be a dark black-comedy or a dark drama, it's sure to be a recipe for disaster.
Come to think of it, I wonder how the Donner party would fare at a dinner party. Tasteless joke, but rest assured the humor will only get worse from here. Hope you didn’t come hungry because you may very well lose your appetite soon. Set the table, light some candles, and say your prayers. Let’s dig in, shall we?
7. Hannibal (2013–2015)
Ridley Scott’s mishap of a movie or the NBC television series? Pick your poison. Actually my suggestion would be to disregard the former altogether and binge away at the latter instead. Your stomach will churn, or it might grumble (much to your chagrin, I’m sure). I just can’t help my mouth from watering while watching this show. Food porn at its finest, truly. Go on & view all the delectable screencaps, but be wary of the ingredients (i.e. captions with spoilers).
Hannibal was (is?) one of the best bloody shows out there. Can someone please confirm or deny a Season 4 in 2017? Yes, no, maybe so? I'm hungry for more.
6. The Invitation (2015)
From the start, this film nestles itself under your skin. The string-heavy score is also guilty of this and will elicit many a shudder. Paranoia is prevalent throughout, awkward silences abound, and suspicion is a secret ingredient. While none of the cast is necessarily famous, I’m more than certain you’ll recognize several of the faces featured. Shout-out to Tammy Blanchard who stuns as Eden; however I wouldn’t want to get into her garden anytime soon. And this should go without saying — especially with psychological thrillers — but pay close attention because everything matters: flashbacks, glances, a smile, even the smallest bit of dialogue.
This is one invitation I wouldn't accept. However I will definitely be revisiting this film soon because it's one of the best thrillers you'll watch in a while.
5. The Last Supper (1995)
Matthew and John ain't present, but Marc & Luke sure are (Jonathon Penner and Courtney B. Vance). If you've been living under a rock, the latter actor killed it here and continues to do so as Johnny Cochran in FX's The People V. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story for which he won an Emmy. Cameron Diaz, Annabeth Gish, and Robert Eldard also star in this under-rated indie flick alongside Bill Paxton ("Zack") whose career was alive and thriving in the '90s.
The basic plot is this: a group of five friends (liberal graduate students) invite Zack (a right-wing extremist and Desert Storm veteran) over for dinner as a thank you for helping with a little car trouble. What starts as pleasant conversation leads to an intense political debate between the two conflicting parties. When Zack gets a little knife happy and threatens to rape one of the women, his screen time is promptly cut short. This occurrence soon becomes a tradition as the group invites unlike-minded guests over with the intent of murdering them. Unlike with Zack, however, these incidents are no accident.
It is a wonderful, wildly inappropriate film and might be the best (or worst) thing to watch during this tumultuous election year. Just don't get any ideas.
4. Would You Rather (2012)
Always tempted to tack on a question mark at the end of that title. Anyways, this is a game that we're all familiar with in some regard, but this movie presents an unfortunate twist for the invited guests. The Re-animator, Jeffrey Combs himself, is at it again: pure, unadulterated horror flicks. This is a genre that he exceeds at and is superb in this role. However the character he plays is no perfect host.
Brittany Snow leads this cast of characters, many of which you may recognize: Eddie Steeples (My Name is Earl), Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham, The Walking Dead), Enver Gjokaj (Agent Carter). And your eyes don’t deceive you, that is Sasha Grey. I know you know who she is. Don’t say you know her from HBO's Entourage, that's what everyone says. Even if that was true, she plays a fictionalized version of herself on said show. Nice try, though.
I would rather order takeout than attend this dinner party, without a doubt.
3. The Perfect Host (2010)
David Hyde Pierce is perfect in this movie as Warwick Wilson, the most imperfect host you could ever meet — or stumble upon, in this case. His guest this evening is John (Clayne Crawford), a fetching fugitive looking for a safe haven. No complaints here since John is easy on the eyes, as well as the ears, and probably the rest of our senses. The same can be said about his girlfriend, Simone (Megahn Perry).
Lucky for him, Warwick was preparing for a dinner party; what's one more guest? Before too long, John realizes that Warwick is not at all what he seems. Based on Nick Tomnay's 2001 short film, he returned to co-write this story into a feature. And if that wasn't enough, Tomnay also edited/directed it. The final product is a terrifying blend of black comedy & psychological thrills. Please do enjoy.
2. The Gift (2015)
Few films hit their mark when tackling a slow burner. The aforementioned movie The Invitation should be ranked up there with The Gift as both are arguably the exception to otherwise disappointing thrillers. From the first establishing shot to the ending credits, this stalker flick positively simmers, brimming with the perfect amount of paranoia and uneasiness you pray for but so rarely receive.
If you're prone to watching thrillers, you become so familiar with the genre that you can't help but make predictions and end up spoiling the movie. Rest assured, however, that The Gift is one of the more recent slow burners which truly leaves you guessing. Jason Bateman, a generally comical character, outdoes himself as the suspicious Simon alongside his wary wife, Robyn (i.e. Rebecca Hall).
Much like Nick Tomnay with The Perfect Host, Joel Edgerton seems to do it all here. He wrote the screenplay for The Gift, directed the film, and plays the stalker himself, (Gordo the weirdo) quite believably, I might add. Cause for concern, Joel?
Simon says you should watch this phenomenal film immediately. And if my word isn't enough, it does have a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
For the love of all things macabre, I just couldn't leave out the dinner scene from Tobe Hooper’s 1974 cult classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's genuinely the stuff of nightmares and I loathe every second of it. Honestly I would redact my statement of loving this trope right now if it meant I could erase this scene from my memory. If I were in Sally's shoes and woke up like dis, I’d rather be down for the count. Put a hammer in my skull, I’m done. Or stick a fork in me, whichever.
Upon researching more about the film, I learned some rather disturbing details. Keeping in mind the low production value and budget constraints, sometimes the real deal is cheaper than fake props. That's right, real blood was used here. And if that fucked-up fact isn't enough to make you dry heave, take another glimpse at the above image. See that skeleton? Also real. Insert "bone-lickin' good" joke here.
Still holding onto your stomach contents? You won't after this video:
*Most of these movies are available on Netflix or can be streamed online at a minimal cost (i.e. iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Video, YouTube, Vudu, etc)
P.S. If you'd like to experience this trope for yourself, head to the nearest cinema & check out Complete Unknown. It's a Sundance film picked up by Amazon Studios that is now showing in select theatres. Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, AND the incomparable Kathy Bates and Danny Glover star in it. My suggestion would be to see it in one of those AMC Dine-In Theaters. Seems appropriate, wouldn't you say?