Review: The Feast

Directed by Lee Haven Jones and written by Roger Williams, a wealthy family has a dinner party at its home in the Welsh mountains, hosting a local businessman and farmer who hope to broker a business deal. A mysterious young woman arrives to be the family’s waitress, and things begin to unravel. Starring: Annes Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis Jones, Steffan Cennydd, Sion Alun Davies, Caroline Berry, Rhodri Meilir and Lisa Palfrey.

For most people, when you hear that a film is Welsh, your mind probably jumps to the assumption of set in Wales but spoken in English, Welsh language films are extremely uncommon so The Feast is a wonderful change. It starts out with that typical horror feel of coldness and that things aren’t quite as they seem. It sets its viewers at a satisfying unease which impressively holds for the majority of the film. It centres itself around Cadi (Elwy), with her overly quiet and curious behaviour, kicking off a pattern of creepy touches to keep upping the mystery of what’s really at work here. There’s a good pacing to keep you invested and it’s only when it finally reveals itself that the story weakens. It shifts into a completely different gear and goes for shock over the subtlety it had built previously, which will be fun for some but disappointing for others. However, the origins it creates for the story itself, even if slightly vague, are a fresh spin on your usual supernatural or ghostly tales.

It’s a staple of horror to be set in a secluded setting, and in modern films for that to include a house with many glass walls to intensify the vulnerability to the max, and The Feast fits nicely into that. Its setting is just picturesque enough to wander into haunting territory, touching upon man versus nature, respecting origins and history over greed. Lee Haven Jones adds a nice touch with some forced perspective, not always letting you get the full picture and pushing the sense of discomfort. It builds a good dark atmosphere while its visual actually remains filled with colour but the two work together when blended with its sharpness. It goes heavy on the violence towards the end which feels unjustified, coming slightly out of nowhere, too much too fast and could have left more to the imagination.

Annes Elwy gives the type of performance where you know how good it is because you’re likely going to be suspicious of her in anything else she’s in. It’s eerily quiet and she easily builds a persona of someone with a dark secret, you just don’t know what and while it gives you clues throughout, it never gives itself up too quickly. Nia Roberts is perfect as the high-maintenance wife of a politician, she wants everything just so and Roberts truly gets across the tension and frustration which go along with that personality. Lisa Palfrey is a brilliant addition, she may not get a lot of screen time but what she does is an emotional and fraught performance that feeds so well into the story’s reveal. The rest of the cast all have something to add, particularly Sion Alun Davies with his Norman Bates vibe, but it’s the women here that really take the limelight.

The Feast is hopefully only the beginning of more films being produced in the Welsh language. Lee Haven Jones and Roger Williams touch upon a number of familiar themes and styles in the world of horror but have their own unique edge to add to the mix. It’s full of mystery, tension, curiosity and an offbeat, dark atmosphere. It’s visually very strong, making the most of its scenic setting and using a directorial style that pushes its energy further into uncomfortable territory. As well as being lead by a strong performance from Annes Elwy but ultimately it’s let down by its final moments. It’s a classic pitfall of horror, falling prey to the pressure of a shocking finale when it only undermines its success, letting go of a satisfying subtle mystery for overt violence and leaving you disappointed in its destination.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ ½ | 7/10

Available on VOD in the US now

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