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Thursday, March 18, 2021

[SXSW Review] ‘The Feast’ is Bloody Good Eco-Horror

If there’s one trend among the genre films screening at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, it’s that they’ve all got a message to deliver. Some have been ill-advised, while others have been heavy-handed. The Feast is following this trend but it does so in a more subtle way, prioritizing its characters and their unsettling situation while slyly sneaking in an environmentalist message.

During an extended, dialogue-free opening sequence, we are introduced to a wealthy family living in the Welsh mountains: parents Glenda (Nia Roberts) & Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones) and their sons: triathlon trainee Gweirydd (Sion Alun Davies) and the free-spirited Guto (Steffan Cennydd). They are preparing for an elegant meal, with the intent of securing a business deal to mine in the surrounding countryside. When Glenda’s new assistant Cadi (Annes Elwy) arrives to help with the dinner preparations, the family’s beliefs and values are challenged as her quiet yet disturbing presence begins to unravel their lives.

The Feast is the feature directorial debut of Lee Haven Jones after a decade working in television, and all that works has paid off because he directs the film with a shockingly confident hand. Special mention must be given to cinematographer Bjørn Ståle Bratberg, who works with limited space inside the family’s home. It calls to mind the stellar work of Mike Gioulakis and Jarin Blaschke in Apple TV+’s Servant (review). Scenes inside the house remain tight and claustrophobic, with one of the film’s more interesting locales being Glenda’s spa room, which another character describes as a literal cell. It’s only when the camera ventures outside to the Welsh countryside that you as the viewer feel a sense of relief, and Haven has a lot of fun alternating screen time between each of the two settings.

Screenwriter Roger Williams draws things out for the majority of The Feast‘s runtime. This isn’t to say it’s boring, but viewers expecting a bloodbath from beginning to end had best look elsewhere. Unfortunately, Williams plays things close to the vest a little too long, with the big reveal arriving in the film’s final 20 minutes. This wouldn’t be a problem if the film didn’t telegraph the reveal 30 minutes prior, but since it does it deflates the impact of the finale. This is a real shame, considering how excellent the buildup has been up until that point. That being said, the climax far from disappoints as the walls are quite literally splashed with blood and gore (one particular sequence involving a maggot-infested leg left this critic gagging).

All of the actors do commendable work, with Roberts getting the showiest role as the film’s ostensible protagonist, though this could easily be considered an ensemble film. Initially presented as a materialistic shrew who is more than annoyed that the local grocery store doesn’t carry bok choy, her performance allows her to open up to the point where you truly empathize with her, especially once things start getting violent. Elwy is essentially the co-lead of the film, though her role is far less showy in that it requires her to stare creepily at everything going on around her. Still, her evolution from unsettling to menacing to threatening over the course of the film is seamless and believable.

The Feast has a message on its mind, and while you might think it boils down to “rich people = bad, poor people = good,” you’d be sorely mistaken. The Feast rises above a heavy-handed delivery and instead delivers a deliberately paced eco-horror film that acts as a deft mix of Karyn Kusama’s masterpiece The Invitation (review) and the aforementioned Servant. It spends a bit too much time dawdling before the big climax (and it is a big climax), but it’s well worth your time.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3655781/sxsw-review-the-feast-eco-horror-bloody/

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