Arthouse horror is a subgenre that is difficult to master. It serves tough topics through rawness and bloody spheres. Lee Haven Jones’ debut feature, The Feast, is a decent entry into the sub-genre that mixes oddness with the vicious slits of gore while tackling class and identity.
Set in a gloomy evening, a wealthy couple, Glenda and Gwyn (Nia Roberts and Julian Lewis Jones), host a lavish dinner in their house on the Welsh mountains. The guests attending the dinner are a local businessman and a farmer. The purpose of inviting these guests is to secure a deal with them to mine on the adjoining terrain.
Before the dinner starts, a reserved young woman (Annes Elwy) arrives to be the server for the evening, but she catches the attention of the host’s sons, Guto and Gweirydd (Steffan Cennydd and Sion Alun Davies). The family has some credence and merits that are questioned as her presence appears to muddle the reunion. As the evening goes by, violent and unexpected acts start to occur, connected to the waiter, haunting the party members.
Because it blends folk horror with slow-burn psychological thrills, The Feast keeps you at the edge of your seat while you wonder what it is trying to say. While tackling class and identity issues, the Welsh folklore The Feast stands upon shapes this film. Fairytale-esque in a dark way, but at times satirical, it is reminiscent of the peculiarness of Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth (2009) with a sense of the carnal, bloody aspects of Julia Ducournau’s RAW (2016).
The film hides its true self with the beautiful backdrop of the Welsh mountains. It weaves the narrative from left to right because the house’s atmosphere and that of the countryside are quite different from each other until the film shows what it truly is in the last act. There is a juxtaposition between the sceneries inside the modern house and the beautiful surroundings with a concealed boundary between them, captured gracefully by cinematographer Bjørn Ståle Bratberg.
There is a sense of dread and horror between the lines of the first two acts of the film, but Lee Haven Jones holds it just enough to create a claustrophobic disturbance in the end. Gory set pieces, sexual tension, and a mercurial change in essence. At times you wish you had some of those set pieces early in the film, as the audience is kept waiting until the end to see the moments teased.
The pacing makes the audience uncomfortable but takes too long to launch onto each act. This is not a horror film a person watches for enjoyment; it yells disturbance and eeriness. Those aspects draw you into the film, but eventually, you end up wanting a bit more substance. The Feast is a hallucinatory and visual treat worth watching for its last act alone, but the problem is that the first two acts are weaker than they need to be.
Lee Haven Jones makes their directorial debut with The Feast following a career in directing for televsion.