January 5, 2021
by Carla Hay
Directed by Lee Haven Jones
Welsh with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in Wales, the horror film “The Feast” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A mysterious woman is hired to be a cook/server for an upcoming dinner party in a wealthy family’s countryside home, but strange and sinister things occur before, during and after this meal.
Culture Audience: “The Feast” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching European horror movies that take their time to get to the biggest action scenes.
“The Feast” is a horror movie that’s a cautionary tale about the gluttony of pillaging the environment. It’s a deliberately paced film whose plot stumbles a bit in the last third of the movie, but it has enough gruesome images and haunting themes to make an impact. People with short attention spans might not enjoy the movie as much people who have the patience to watch a story unfold, bit by bit.
Lee Haven Jones, a director who has worked mostly in British television (on shows such as “Dr. Who” and “The Long Call”), makes his feature-film directorial debut with “The Feast,” which was written by Roger Williams. The movie is set in an unnamed Welsh countryside city in the present day, but the costume design and production design bring an otherworldly, timeless quality to the film that doesn’t peg it to a specific year in the 21st century. Because the entire film takes place on the wooded property of a wealthy family, the atmosphere of the film is intentionally isolating.
“The Feast” begins with the arrival of a temporary worker in her 20s named Cadi (played by Annes Elwy), who has been hired to be a cook/server for the family’s upcoming dinner party in their mansion. Yes, it’s another horror movie about a mysterious employee who works in a mansion in the woods, and then bad things start to happen. However cliché that concept might be, “The Feast” at least takes it step further by being more than just a violent gorefest horror flick.
The lady of the house is family matriarch Glenda (played by Nia Roberts), who is annoyed that Cadi has shown up late. Glenda scolds Cadi: “We’re a long way from town, but I did give directions. Did you follow them? It doesn’t matter. You’re here now.” Over time, viewers see that Glenda is pretentious and very particular about the image that she and the rest of the family project to the outside world.
Cadi was hired as a sudden replacement for a woman named Lynwen, who became ill earlier that week. Glenda is supervising the cooking for this dinner, which will be a three-course meal for seven people. Cadi spends most of her time in the kitchen and in the dining room, but she still finds time to wander around the property.
Cadi is quiet but appears to be easily agitated by sights and sounds of hunting, which is a frequent activity of the men of the house. Glenda’s husband Gwyn (played by Julian Lewis Jones) has hunted rabbits that will be served during the banquet. When he plops two dead and bloody rabbits on the kitchen countertop, Cadi acts very disturbed. And when the couple’s younger son Guto (played by Steffan Cennydd), who is in his late teens or early 20s, shoots a gun in a nearby field, the sound of the gun frightens Cadi so much that she crouches down in fear.
It doesn’t take long for Cadi to find out that this is a dysfunctional family. Glenda and Gwyn have two sons: Elder child Gweirydd (played by Siôn Alun Davies) is an obsessive overachiever type who left his job as a hospital doctor to go into intense training for a triathlon. Younger child Guto, the “black sheep” of the family, is a needle-using drug addict who has been in rehab and who has overdosed at least once.
Cadi’s arrival at the house piques the interest of the three men who live there, and she shows some curiosity too. Gweirydd immediately stares lecherously at Cadi. Later, she spies on Gweirydd while he shaves his pubic hair in a sauna. Cady seems more attracted to Guto, who accidentally injured his foot outdoors when a metal part of fence dropped on his foot. What happens to this foot injury later in the movie is not for the faint of heart.
After seeing Cadi’s horrified reaction to the dead rabbits, Gwyn tells Cadi that he’s sorry that he scared her. “I want to be your friend,” Gwyn tells Cadi. It’s an odd thing to say to a stranger who’s been hired to work in the home for just one evening.
But things get even more bizarre. Soon, it becomes obvious that Cadi is not a “normal” employee. She secretly spits in the food when no one is looking. And when she has some free time alone, she goes in Glenda’s bedroom, tries on some of Glenda’s perfume, and then starts laughing like a maniac.
The guests at this dinner party are a businessman named Euros (played by Rhodri Meilir) and a farmer’s wife named Mair (played by Lisa Palfrey), who have not been invited just as a social visit. Euros describes his job this way: “I help small businesses find ways to make money with their assets.” And it turns out that Gwyn wants Mair to convince her husband Iori to sell their farm land so that consortium can use the land for drilling purposes. Iori is presumably the third guest who was expected at this dinner party, but he is not in attendance.
This fateful dinner party is really the catalyst for most of the horror action that takes place in the movie. Because the dinner party doesn’t happen until the last third of the movie, viewers must have patience and observe all the clues that explain what happens toward the end of the movie. One of the first signs that something terrible is about to happen is when Glenda shows off the house’s sauna/retreat room to Mair, which Mair thinks looks more like a prison cell. Shortly before they leave, Glenda notices a red feather float down, seemingly from out of nowhere.
“The Feast” is perfectly adequate when it comes to the performances of the cast members. Some viewers will think that the movie takes too long to get to the big scares. (“The Feast” spends a lot of time on the family squabbles and images of the meal being prepared.) Still, director Jones capably handles the film’s brooding atmosphere and how the movie’s feeling of dread slowly increases as time goes on in the story. The most memorable characteristic of “The Feast” is in how its intended message sneaks up on viewers, but it’s cloaked in a very creepy and brutal horror movie.
IFC Films/IFC Midnight released “The Feast” in select U.S. cinemas on digital and VOD on November 19, 2021.