SXSW Film Review: The Feast
This horror's entrée is delicious, but the dessert is lacking
By Matthew Monagle,
12:15PM, Fri. Mar. 19, 2021
Humanity digs into the earth in search of buried treasure. Who knows what horrible secrets we may unearth along the way? So suggests The Feast, Lee Haven Jones’s Welsh ecological horror film that shows what happens to one wealthy family when a very special dinner goes very much awry.
Glenda (Nia Roberts) knows she’s lucky to get catering assistant Cadi (Annes Elwy) on such short notice. With an important dinner party just hours away, the two get to work preparing for their guests. And while Cadi may seem a little on the quiet side, the family is more than happy to fill that silence with their grievances and regrets. In saying nothing, Cadi encourages the family to tell her everything she needs to hear.
From the film’s opening minutes, director Lee Haven Jones makes it abundantly clear that The Feast is meant to serve as a contemporary fairy tale. This fact is driven home by the structure, broken into six chapters that combine roman numerals with hints of the future. Cadi herself feels lifted directly from a children’s fable, a woman with an almost spiritual connection to the natural world. She weeps at the meat she is forced to prepare and only seems happy in the woods behind the house. It doesn’t take much to guess where she truly belongs. It is a credit to both Jones and Elwy that this performance stays strong throughout. As Cadi wanders the house –leaving clumps of dirt in her wake – the focus shifts towards the purpose of tonight’s dinner. Glenda and husband Gwynn (Julian Lewis Jones) may pretend to be kind neighbors, but it is no coincidence that mining executive Euros (Rhodri Meilir) has the place of honor at the dinner table. As he talks business, Cadi watches silently. She won’t remain silent forever.
But for as enjoyable as it is to watch the walls close in around Glenda and her family, it is the payoff itself that falls flat for The Feast. While fairy tales and folklore are no strangers to extreme acts of violence – the wicked must be punished, after all – Roger Williams’s script elects for modern acts of horror in a film steeped in gothic fantasy. Much could’ve remained implicit in The Feast; instead, the film chooses to end on a note of grand guignol, transforming a crafty little fairy tale into a middling piece of arthouse horror.