10th Jun2020

‘The Dinner Party’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Bill Sage, Mike Mayhall, All Hart, Lindsay Anne Williams, Ritchie Montgomery, Miles Doleac, Sawandi Wilson, Judyth Daley, Kamille McCuin | Written by Miles Doleac, Michael Donovan Horn | Directed by Miles Doleac

Well you certainly can’t say writer/director/actor Miles Doleac isn’t prolific. In fact he;’s so prolific that, without realising, we’ve actually reviewed one of his movies almost every year since 2015 (2018 was the only year he didn’t release a featuyre); and now comes his fifth and latest, The Dinner Party – a cannibal horror that sees renowned surgeon and culinary enthusiast, Carmine Braun (Bill Sage), invites playwright, Jeffrey Duncan (Mike Mayhall), and his wife Haley (Alli Hart) to join his eccentric friends at their semi-annual dinner party, having promised to fund Duncan’s new play to Broadway. As the evening descends into madness, the group’s true intentions are revealed, along with an ancient secret that will change the Duncans’ lives and fortunes forever.

When a film starts out with two guests admitting that they’ve followed instruction to not reveal where they are or what they’re doing you know there’s bound to be SOMETHING major set to happen. You also realise how ridiculously stupid it is to actually do that… But hey, you’re suspending belief watching these types of films aren’t you? Aren’t you?!

Reminiscent of the kinds of twisted horror of Amicus and Hammer, The Dinner Party reminded me very much of the last segment of Amicus’ Tales That Witness Madness, where a luau for a literary agent is actually a ceremony in which her daughter is set to be sacrificed. It shares a smilier streak of black gallows humour as those old anthologies did – where everyone got their comeuppance with a little, sometimes humorous, twist. There are also shades of Southern-Gothic horror at play too – especially in the performances of Bill Sage as Carmine Braun and the very setting in which this film takes place.

Running almost two hours in length The Dinner Party is, at first, something of a slog – spending far too much time on the strange chit-chat of the dinner party guests. Yes, I know we’re building suspense – for the audience know something is off with this party – but that scene is dragged on for just too long to be effective. What IS effective during this talky moment however are the flashback scenes we see featuring Haley and her family. They offer an insight into what is to come later in The Dinner Party – an abusive father (played by a cameoing Jeremy London), a broken home life, a mother subservient to her husband – something Haley could be accused of too… All of this is a sure sign that Haley is not going to take whatever this motley crew of dinner guests have planned lying down. And she doesn’t.

Like a number of recent genre movies such as Ready or Not and Satanic Panic, The Dinner Party has a strong female lead at its core. Someone who fights back with as much gusto – and violence – as is perpetrated against her. In fact Haley’s reaction is more nihilistic than the plans this dinner party had for her. Hey, at least they had plans for her. Haley’s response is… Well… to say would spoil the fun!

Of course everything I’ve mentioned is something of a cliche. We’ve seen it before – we know you should never attend dinner parties with strangers; we know if one of the victims has suffered trauma in the past they’re not going to take what’s planned without fighting back; we know that evil must get its comeuppance. It’s all the typical tropes of the genre. However The Dinner Party is still crafted in such as way that, even though you know what’s coming, you’re looking forward to seeing how things pan out.

And speaking of things panning out…

There’s a rather bizarre turn of events as the film closes. The Dinner Party turns from a story about a woman battling to survive at a dinner filled with cannibals to a biblical tale of good versus evil, as one of the guests turns out be not who we’re led to believe. At first it feels like this is a step too far in this tale of terror; an ending that was not needed and feels somewhat tacked on to make The Dinner Party feel more epic that it is. But then there’s the denouement, as you realise that the new purpose of the titular party could actually be more… heroic?

Now I may be reading too much into that ending but, bear with me on this one, we have a put-upon heroine finding her inner strength thanks to the help of one of the dinner party hosts. That heroine then teams up with the remaining dinner party host to put on more dinner parties… To save more women perhaps? To allow more of their female guests to find their inner strength and their own freedom? Or are they just adding more damaged personalities to their gaggle of “monsters”? It’s an interesting end to a film that posits a myriad of questions to elevate a film that, for the most part, felt a little too predictable.

The Dinner Party is available now on Amazon, Google Play, Fandango Now, iTunes, Vudu, and Xbox, courtesy of Uncork’d Entertainment.


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