22nd Oct2021

LFF 2021: ‘The Feast’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Annes Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis Jones, Steffan Cennydd, Siôn Alun Davies, Lisa Palfrey, Rhodri Meilir | Written by Roger Williams | Directed by Lee Haven Jones

A dinner party devolves into a bloodbath in this stylish, slow burn Welsh language horror from debut director Lee Haven Jones. Fair warning: The Feast is not the kind of movie about a feast that will make you hungry afterwards. Indeed, eating beforehand might not be a good idea either.

Set in the present day, the film centres on a wealthy family preparing for a dinner party at their stylish, ultra-modern home in the Welsh countryside. As the film begins, mother Glenda (Nia Roberts) is relaxing in her purpose-built meditation chamber, her corrupt politician husband Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones) is out trying to shoot rabbits, while her sons Guto (Steffan Cennydd) and Gweirydd (Siôn Alun Davies) are getting high and obsessively training for a triathalon, respectively.

Into that mix comes enigmatic, mostly silent Cadi (Annes Elwy), a young waitress from the local pub, who’s been hired as replacement catering staff for the evening. However, as the guests gather and the true purpose of the dinner party is revealed, it turns out that Cadi has an agenda of her own.

The script, by Roger Williams, makes its themes explicit early on, as the decidedly unsympathetic nouveau riche family represent an imminent threat to the idyllic countryside and, more specifically, an area of local legend. The stage is set, then, for their grisly comeuppance, and part of the fun of the film lies in speculating just what form that might take.

Similarly, the script drip-feeds tantalising hints as to Cadi’s true nature, like, why does she apparently leave muddy stains when she handles a tablecloth, and why is she drawn to a particular painting? In addition, her early interactions with the family members and guests are intriguing, as none of them play out the way you’d expect.

To that end, Annes Elwy proves a real find, delivering a performance that is consistently fascinating, with her mostly blank facial expressions and odd little quirks, like a sudden burst of unexpected laughter. It’s a decidedly unsettling, otherwordly turn that brings to mind Scarlett Johansson’s performance in Under the Skin.

The supporting cast are good value too, leaning into their characters’ less likeable qualities to enjoyable effect. Davies, in particular, has fun with Gweirydd, who seems to get an erotic charge from his own lycra-clad body, while Roberts does a good job of subtly conveying all the tensions inherent in her character as she tries to hold everything together.

Lee Haven Jones (whose TV experience includes episodes of Doctor Who) proves a dab hand at the slow burn, letting things get weirder and weirder until the red stuff starts sloshing about. He also has an eye for a disturbing visual, from maggots crawling about in a leg wound to that old genre favourite, someone coughing up a clump of matted hair.

The eventual gore moments don’t disappoint either, though to say any more would be to spoil the fun. Let’s just say that the special effects department did themselves proud.

The Feast is further heightened by some excellent production design work on the house itself, beautifully exploited by cinematographer Bjorn Bratberg, whose prowling cameras lend sinister intent to Cadi’s actions as she slowly explores her surroundings. On top of that, the sound design is superbly creepy and the film makes strong use of a particular Welsh song, a glorious pop version of which plays over the end credits.

In short, The Feast proves both a significant calling card for director Lee Haven Jones and a tasty horror treat to boot. Here’s hoping it finds the audience it deserves.

**** 4/5

The Feast screened as part of this years London Film Festival.

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