SXSW Online 2021 – Film Review – The Feast

One night. One House. One hell of a feast.

A dysfunctional family and their guests face the wrath of an awoken supernatural force during a deadly dinner date with Welsh folklore. 

The Feast opens with an early juxtaposition involving false black skin. One character is removing a detoxification face pack whilst the other is donning tight cycling gear. This taught symbolism is typical of this viciously intelligent movie as a whole, where nothing is as it seems and everyone is living a bitter lie.

On the surface, the film is a grubby rubbernecking of relationships crumbling under the strain of expectation, mental frailty and greed. However, as we are slowly submerged into the toxic atmosphere of this beautiful abode in the gorgeous Welsh countryside, it becomes clear that The Feast has a deeper agenda than the flaky histrionics of a fucked up family.

Matriarch Glenda retreats to an ugly and oppressive wet-room bunker despite the wonder of the natural beauty that surrounds her. Her M.P. husband Gwyn has health anxiety, a superiority complex and a blossoming drink problem. Sons Guto and Gweirydd are no better off. A damaged hedonist and rabid narcotics fiend and a nipple obsessed triathlete with a propensity for sneaky woodland wanking respectively.

We join them as they are preparing to host a soiree with the aim of brokering a mineral mining deal between their financial advisor and the neighbouring landowner. Hired to help is a local barmaid Cadi, a near-mute young woman who just can’t keep her blouse clean.

As the social occasion begins to unravel Cadi proves the catalyst for an evening vomitorium of extreme magic mushroom abuse, maggoty necrophagy and stabby subterfuge.

Multi-layered and moody, Lee Haven Jones’ firecracker of a film will drag you into the undercurrents of folkloric mythology and leave you to drown. Deceptively simplistic in both narrative and staging it is an immaculate example of the raw horsepower that psychogeography and hauntology can bring to storytelling.

The decision to use Welsh dialogue is a brave one. However, it is euphonious on the ear and its rhythmic grace is a perfect conduit for authenticism and immersive ambience. Many will steer clear due to the all too common atopic allergy to subtitles but this film is too transfixed by thematic legitimacy to care. This quietly rebellious creative resolve in a crowded market space of fakers and shock merchants is laudably edgy.

Equally gratifying is the stunning camerawork from Bjørn Ståle Bratberg. He would probably argue that the majestic Welsh landscape shot itself, yet his composition, angles and eye for natural spectacle is astonishing. Even when the action moves inside he captures the cold designer vacuum where love and empathy should be with organic precision. In terms of symbiotic cinematography, this is genuinely some of the finest augmentations of image and ideas you will see all year.

The cast embraces both the slow-burn build and the manic meltdowns with uniform commitment and enthusiasm. Naturalistic performances combined with restraint and focus, it is plain they all grasped the tone and intent of the project. Working for each other rather than personal showboating to help build a believable domain of interconnected angst.

The Feast may well be an intellectual oasis of sorts for folk horror fans but it never forgets it is supposed to be an outright horror flick as well. It has no qualms crushing the accelerator of midnight movie excess to the floor when the fancy takes it. The imagery is gruesome and the set pieces gory and vociferous with some scenes highly discomforting to watch. Those of a sensitive gastronomic nature will be buddying up with their gag reflex for some of the more degenerately flavoursome scenes.

Essentially a modernist eco-fable, The Feast does what all folk horror does best. Using the fading memories of the past to throw ancient prisms of light on the scorched earth policies of contemporary living. Forcing us to reevaluate the personal and environmental cost of burning our indigenous bridges in the name of profit and progress.

★★★★

WORLD PREMIERE

Supernatural, Mystery, Folk Horror | UK, 2021 | Cert: TBC | Welsh Language | 93 min | S4C, FFilm Cymru Wales, BFI | SXSW Online 2021 | 17th March. 2021 | Dir. Lee Haven Jones| Cast. Anne Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis Jones, Steffan Cennydd, Sion Alun Davies, Lisa Palfrey, Rhodri Meilir