South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival – Director Lee Haven Jones invites audiences to his gluttonously tense thriller, The Feast (2021), premiering at SXSW Online 2021 within the “Midnighters” category of movies. Written by Roger Williams in his feature-film writing debut, The Feast is an English/Welsh-language film that uses a slow-pace to build anticipation, accented by moments of shockingly graphic imagery that keep the movie interesting until the supernatural nature of the film is revealed in a horrifying ending.
In the film, a well-to-do family is hosting a small dinner party for their long-time neighbors as well as a business partner, who is a land developer. Needing an assistant for the evening, the mother, Glenda (Nia Roberts) hires a food server named Cadi (Annes Elwy), a replacement for her usual assistant. The girl is quiet but obediently assists the family with preparing for the evening, including food preparation and providing drugs to one of their bored sons. As the dinner gets underway, it becomes apparent that the purpose of dinner was to get their neighbor under contract with their business partner, however, the neighbor declines, warning that they should not be drilling in their area due to local lore of an evil, murderous spirit who should not be disturbed.
Director Lee Haven Jones sure likes the medium-wide shots, paying close attention to framing and having characters centered objectively, in somewhat of a voyeuristic view, at times. The Feast had a cold, uneasy atmosphere that felt reminiscent of what was captured in Stocker (2013) with notes of The Invitation (2015) from the film’s dangerous-dinner-party setting. The film was portrayed in such a way that the addition of each new character caused me to call into question which one(s) was secretly harboring psychopathic tendencies just underneath the surface of their carefully coiffed facades.
Each character was introduced with lingering stares from other characters and low, brooding music, which gave an air of mystery and impending doom to the story, a feeling that built to almost an intense frenzy by The Feast‘s bloody and excruciatingly graphic finale. More than just a horror-thriller, The Feast is a complex puzzle that, when put together, paints a picture comprised of a thousand truly unsettling pieces, though its completed image is quite beautiful. The film’s slow and lingering pace allowed the cinematography to be shown off, with the picture-perfect home of the elite always perfectly lit and framed like something out of Better Homes & Gardens, except this home is in a psychological and supernatural hell.
The Feast gradually unpacks a history of moral negligence on the part of one privileged family, and though the audience spends a whole evening with these people, the true nature of each character is not revealed until the end. As the feature-film debut for both its writer and director, The Feast is truly an impressive end product of this collaboration, with the two previously having worked on the same TV projects according to their IMDb pages, and hopefully on more projects to come.
The Feast reviewed as part of our South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival coverage.
7.5 out of 10