Mike’s Review: The Feast (2021) (SXSW Festival)

★★★★.5 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Lee Haven Jones

Don’t. Turn. This. Movie. Off. Seriously, it’s a slow burn in the grand tradition of slow burn horror films, but the payoff off is so deliciously evil and filling. If you stop after the aspic and the salad course you’ll miss a rather grisly desert. 

Set in the buccolic Welsh countryside, 2021’s The Feast, pokes and prods at the frayed family dynamic, interpersonal foibles, and mid-life hubris.  All of the worst aspects of the family and their compelling need to lavishly display their station in life are viewed in third person by an oddly placed outsider, Cadi.

The film, directed by Lee Haven Jones and written by Roger Williams, is all in Welsh with English subtitles. Making the need to pay attention all the more important. While Lee Haven Jones subtly teases out chapter headings for the impending doom it’s done in a way that requires a bit of patience. 

Glenda (Nia Roberts, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrible) and her well-to-do local representative husband Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones, Justice League) decide to hold a feast to parade their wealth in front of family and friends. While their ostentatious behavior is at the forefront of their minds, they’re also working to convince their neighbor of the potential oil, gas, and mineral development opportunities that could be had by opening their pristine farmlands to rapacious development. 

As we all know, dinner parties don’t just happen on their own. Help is required and Glenda is sadly stuck with two layabout sons (Guto and Gweirydd) who are obsessed with their own self-involved distractions. Glenda seeks out the services of their local community restaurant and because her normal dinner-party assistant is unavailable, she hires an oddly quiet and somber young woman Cadi (Annes Elwy). 

Cadi do this — Cadi do that — Cadi get this — Cadi fetch that. Glenda’s mini-empire needs to be perfect. She needs to continually impress her vain husband, his business partners, and their neighbors. While Cadi performs her tasks, she also takes ample breaks to ethereally wander through the house, paw at Glenda’s jewelry and clothing, and takes time to understand the boy’s peculiar idiosyncrasies. 

ATMOSfx! Woo!
Cadi putting in the work.

What becomes slowly clear is that something’s bothering Cadi, and she herself is working out in her mind how to rectify the problem. Is it the neighbors? The oil and gas development? The layabout children? Gwyn? Glenda? Their disgusting display of wealth? All of it? 

Seriously, stick with the film! All the answers are revealed in shocking and troubling ways. 

The Feast is an aesthetically engaging party that harkens back to its folk horror ancestors by looking at the conflicted relationship between hyper-modern conveniences and the old and more pastoral (and maybe pre-Christian) ways of yesteryear. There is not a bad performance in the entire cast and the ways that director Lee Haven Jones slowly exposes each character’s weaknesses is nothing short of brilliant. 

The Feast is dreamy and contemplative affair — until it’s not. Getting there takes a bit of work on the part of the viewing audience.  But isn’t it more satisfying when you have to do a little work? After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, or rather feast.

The Feast is likely Rated R and had its world premiere at the 2021 South by Southwest Festival. 

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