Filmed in Welsh, the picture follows a young woman serving privileged guests at a dinner party in a remote house in rural Wales. The assembled guests do not realize they are about to eat their last supper.
A remote house in the middle of nowhere. A dinner party for the wealthy and influential. All caked under an unflinchingly ominous sense of dread. Welcome to the world of The Feast. Written by Roger Williams and directed by Lee Haven Jones, The Feast offers a familiar blend of folk horror and social commentary. While the visuals are a masterclass in unsettling imagery, the script leaves something to be desired. All at once too long, too slow, and too abstract, The Feast feels like a compelling short film that’s been stretched to double the length it should’ve been. The ending is quite the enjoyable explosion, but I’m just not sure the destination justifies the journey.
A Familiar Story
After their usual help declines, Cadi (Annes Elwy) arrives at Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones) and Glenda’s (Nia Roberts) remote home to aid with a dinner party they’re throwing. And as the day goes on, Cadi gets to know Gwyn, Glenda, and their sons Guto (Steffan Cennydd) and Gweirydd (Sion Alun Davies). Like any family, they have their quirks and secrets. Secrets that are ultimately gonna bite them in the backside. While there are plenty of twists and turns towards the final thirty minutes of the movie, you have a pretty good idea of what the story’s broad strokes are gonna be from the very beginning. Jones and Williams make no effort to disguise the familiar ground they’re treading. Which, to be fair, isn’t necessarily a problem. However, instead of adding to the tension, the film’s glacial pacing only makes the familiarities more apparent.
Too Creepy With Nowhere to Go
My biggest problem with The Feast is that it starts out on too creepy a note, giving the resulting tension no way of increasing. When you start out on such a creepy note, it’s hard to get much creepier. And that’s exactly what happens here. The moment each character enters the story, you immediately feel uneasy. You just know something bad’s gonna happen, but you’re not sure when. Now, stories like that are often a lot of fun. The expectation of an impending disaster can act as an easy way of increasing a story’s tension. But that only works when it feels like the stakes are actually rising. Which isn’t what happens here.
Instead, the tension remains at roughly the same level from the beginning of the film to the climax. It never feels like the characters are getting any closer to the imminent disaster. Instead, the film just relies on increasingly disturbing and unsettling images to creep out the audience. And what that will certainly work for some, it didn’t work for me. I just spent the first hour of the film waiting for something, anything, to happen. And when something finally did happen, it was honestly too little too late.
An Imbalance Between the Commentary and the Horror
The Feast spends most of its first hour delving into social commentary ranging from classism to greed to climate concerns. It’s not a bad way to set up a story like this, quickly wedging a divide between Cadi and the family she’s working for. Unfortunately, The Feast never says anything that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. And so, this commentary only contributes to the sense that the film is treading water until its final act. Williams and Jones even go so far as to withhold the far more interesting folk-horror elements until the final thirty minutes. And honestly, this feels like the film’s biggest mistake as that’s when the commentary finally feels fresh. So, I can’t help but wish they’d introduced those folk-horror elements earlier in the film. It could have easily livened up the film’s first hour while providing the climax more room to better explain itself.
Because as it stands, The Feast is a lengthy build-up to an incredibly enjoyable, but very abstract, climax. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how Williams and Jones hinted at the film’s eventual turn towards folk horror through some of its earlier visuals. But the script just doesn’t have enough time to properly explore its revelations after spending so much of the first hour barely setting them up. And so those more familiar themes end up acting more like padding than offering any new insight. Because of this uneven execution, The Feast comes across as a compelling 40ish minute short film that’s been padded out to prolong the story it seems to want to tell.
Great Performances and Even Better Visuals
With all of that said, there is a lot to like about The Feast. All of the actors deliver excellent performances – with Annes Elwy and Nia Roberts being the standouts. The film largely rests on both of their shoulders. They share the most screentime together, and the overarching story is mostly told through their interactions. Elwy, in particular, does a lot without saying much. Most of her performance utilizes her stillness and silence, yet Elwy communicates a lot through these quieter moments. There’s not a lot in the way of character development – for any of the characters. But it’s still impressive seeing how alive each actor makes their characters feel. These are stock characters, to some degree, but they hardly feel that way. And that’s a definite plus.
While the acting is great, the visuals are even better. Lee Haven Jones delivers a masterclass in creepy, unsettling visuals. If you’re easily disgusted by gore, dead animals, and other intentionally upsetting imagery, I imagine The Feast will have quite the impact on you. Jones scatters lots of weird, almost surreal imagery throughout the film, gradually building up their intensity. He also makes great use of the remote Welsh location, using lots of shots of the barren (and beautiful!) landscape to add to the isolating nature of the film. And then there’s that climax. A visual sight to behold. It’s abstract, it’s bloody, and it’s an absolute feast for the eyes – pun intended.
At the end of the day, The Feast just wasn’t for me. There are plenty of bits that work – and work very well. The acting is great across the board. The visuals are absolutely superb. And when the film takes its turn into more folk horror, it gets quite engaging and almost scary. But the script just never quite came together for me. Too much time was spent exploring themes that have been better explored elsewhere. And it didn’t feel like a lot of those themes fully coalesced in the film’s climax – which, itself, felt underexplored. I can understand why a lot of people might enjoy this movie, though. On a technical level, it’s incredibly well made. And its commitment to abstraction and surreal imagery will definitely be someone’s cup of tea. For me, the destination didn’t justify the journey it took to get there.
The Feast is available now in select theaters and on-demand.
Director: Lee Haven Jones
Writer: Roger Williams
Producer: Roger Williams
Executive Producers: Robert Halmi, Jim Reeve, Gwawr Martha Lloyd, Gwenllian Gravelle, Kimberley Warner, Adam Partridge
Starring: Annes Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis Jones, Steffan Cennydd, Sion Alun Davies
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 1h 33m
Part-time writer, part-time theatre nerd, full-time dork.