There is something said for film that uses its setting and concept to masterful effect, even more so with horror. This is true with the Welsh language SXSW film The Feast, where the idyllic gives a false sense of calm that is slowly unravelled to brutal and horrific effect. It is a slow film that defies expectations as the world the characters inhabit slowly grows more ruthless, leaving none standing against the forces that want to take down the family.
Set on the backdrop of the Welsh mountains, The Feast takes place over a single night, as a rich family are setting up for a dinner party that night. With the intent to lockdown the mining rights for the area, the guests are all there for a purpose. The family is one that focuses more on image than on true compassion, with the two sons and parents existing in their own personal worlds, never seeing the suffering or struggles each other face.
It is not until a young woman named comes to their house posing as a waitress, that their self-centred existence is challenged. Over the course of the single evening, each of their own choices and issues slowly erodes their lives, with their privilege and ignorance working to destroy everything they once held close in some brutal and surreal ways.
There is a dreamlike quality to The Feast, with the cinematography capturing a sense of surreal confusion. Director Lee Haven Jones, sets the stage masterfully, giving a slow drip-feed of strange as the dinner party goes off the rails. The contrast of the mountains and fields, with the ostentatiously modern house and its seemingly ignorant inhabitants. This feels very much a battle between nature and civilization, each looking to assert dominance, with only able to stand as the dust settles.
The effects, while sparse, are placed well to give select scenes the right level of shock, or unease. While the horror starts off very subtle, giving only hints at what is to come, as the runtime winds down, the slow buildup slowly throws the simple existence into total chaos. With some of the final scenes of the film feeling like nightmares especially in comparison to the picturesque opening minutes.
While much of The Feast works, including the captivating performance of Annes Elwy as the mysterious Cadi, along with some mesmerizing shots of the house and countryside. Sadly, not everything works in the end product. The flashback crutch was leaned on a few too many times during the 93-minute runtime. While this can work when used sparingly in the right context, within this movie, it took away from the subtle brooding horror that makes the proceedings so unsettling.
The Feast is a film that gets under your skin, with ideas and visuals that give just enough to make you squirm. The film paints a picture filled with the implications and the brutality that these people must have faced over this short but horrific night. While not a perfect execution, what director Lee Haven Jones brings to the screen is engaging, unsettling and memorable. If you are lucky enough to get a chance to watch The Feast, give it a watch, but be prepared to watch the slow descent into brutality that will worm its way under your skin.