Duration: 1h 33m
Director: Lee Haven Jones
Writer: Roger Williams
Starring: Annes Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis Jones, Steddan Cennydd, Sion Alun Davies
By Caz Armstrong
Come with me as we journey into the beautiful Welsh countryside. One where many an Armstrong childhood holiday was spent camping within reach of soft sandy beaches, luscious green rolling hills and tall grasses blanket the land. The Welsh language, so rarely heard on film, fills our ears.
But something’s not right here. The people are strange. There is a bloody undertone looming. Will we make it out alive? If you can brave a peek through your fingers you might find out.
This Welsh language psychological horror is not for the faint hearted. Building on a creepy, if slow start which may frustrate some, we move into psychological territory. The people aren’t normal and something’s afoot. Veering sharply into gory horror territory, the film ends with nightmare fuel of the highest order.
The setting is a pristine luxury house in the Welsh countryside. Large glass windows pierce the bold black walls that stand out starkly against the soft green hills, a sinister blot on the landscape.
Cadi (Annes Elwy) is a young woman who arrives for an evening’s work as a cook-come-waitress for a dinner party. The family she’s here to help are rich and slightly eccentric and we get the sense that they have a dark past. They all wear black, dark and unnatural as the house they live in. Triathlete Gwyeirydd (pronounced Gwair-ith, Sion Alun Davies) and rocker Guto (Steffan Cennydd) are the adult sons of the pristine Glenda (Nia Roberts) and her Member of Parliament husband Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones). All are somewhat sinister in their own way but Cadi herself exhibits the more strange behavior.
For a while we sit in this middle ground, not knowing who we should be most afraid of or what sinister pasts any of them are hiding. It’s full of hints and undertones. It’s unsettling and unnerving, punctuated by the odd jump scare just to keep us on our toes. The imagery is dark and bloody but we’re not quite sure where it’s going.
Strange guests arrive to join the dinner and the third act is where everything comes to its gory – and I mean GORY – conclusion. If you’re a horror fan you’ll be in your element but otherwise you may need to prepare a cushion to hide behind. It’s certainly not for the faint hearted.
The cinematography by Bjørn Ståle Bratberg is precise with each frame holding a wealth of meaning. In particular the contrast of the house and the people against the natural world is stark and laden with meaning. There is also some wonderful work with windows. They provide division, reflection and double exposure.
The recurring themes of dark blood and insatiable appetites are dropped in right from the start. It’s disturbing and confusing but the most shocking images, before we get to the gory third act at least, are from the dead rabbits that are skinned and chopped for dinner. Animal lovers beware.
Unfortunately when the cause of all this horror is revealed it still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps introducing the key to the mystery earlier, or at least in a clearer way, would give it more substance. As it stands it feels a little tacked on and hard to make any sense of. Reason may not be front of the mind when witnessing a horrific bloody nightmare-fest but it does help to get the ‘why’ as well as the ‘oh my god I can’t unsee that’, lest it become gore for gore’s sake.
The Feast is a bold film indeed, containing images which can’t be unseen. The build-up is unhurried and the payoff is grotesque and lacking in much explainable cause. But the middle ground and the cinematography is where “The Feast” gets its strength. Fans of horror, psychological or otherwise, are likely to enjoy this Welsh gem. Those with a more sensitive stomach should make sure they have a stiff drink on hand.