Without being overly violent or gory, The Feast offers viewers some of the most disturbing imagery seen in a 2021 movie. A Welsh horror film directed by Lee Haven Jones and written and produced by Roger Williams, The Feast is a humble, low-stakes affair that uses atmosphere and intimacy to build tension, inviting audiences into a world that may seem perfect, but is rotten underneath. The Feast is a deeply creepy Welsh film that uses the folk horror subgenre to offer an insightful critique of consumerism, as well as a more nuanced — and frankly refreshing — twist on the home invasion thriller.
The Feast has a deceptively simple premise: a wealthy family is hosting a dinner party in their remote, picturesque home in rural Wales. However, the evening's events become increasingly bizarre, leading to a chaotic, visceral climax. Most of the conflict in the movie derives from unsettling interactions between the five main characters. Glenda (Nia Roberts) is the one hosting the party, and her firm, cold demeanor reflects one who has grown cynical over time. She hires a mysterious young woman, Cadi (Annes Elwy), to help with the party preparation. The husband, Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones), is a man of power and influence who holds himself as one accustomed to getting his way — no matter what the consequences. The adult sons Gweirydd (Sion Alun Davies) and Guto (Steffan Cennydd) are two sides of a corrupted coin: one appears to be an upstanding, successful young man but is harboring a dark secret, while the other looks like a rebel and an outsider, but is the least crooked member of the bunch.
Audiences spend the most time split between Glenda and Cadi, hinting at similar natures. Their behavior and circumstances are vastly different, however, and the class divide between Cadi and the wealthy family is one of the primary themes in The Feast. When Cadi first arrives at the home — late, disheveled, and with no belongings (not even a car) — Glenda chastises her then immediately puts her to work, either ignoring or being willfully ignorant of the signs that something untoward happened to the young woman. The family members all take turns "playing" with the hired help, enjoying (whether they're cognizant of it or not) the power their status affords them. For her part, Cadi reacts strangely to her circumstances, and it's her unusual behavior, as well as the uncomfortably claustrophobic atmosphere, that creates the movie's unease. The Feast is more unsettling than it is frightening, although it does have its moments of downright terror.
The Feast is an exceptionally vertical film, and in that regard echoes the classic early horror movies that were so steeped in German Expressionism. Dark, dramatic vertical lines are everywhere in this film, intersecting at sharp points, and creating a sense of violence, or at least conflict, within the domestic space. The house itself is a black, foreboding intrusion on the pastoral setting — its hopelessly modern aesthetic clashing with the peaceful, rolling meadows around it. The house feels out of place, much like Cadi herself — whose odd behavior as a silent observer of the elite's dinner party feels mildly intrusive. The family's mining activity in the area is framed as an unwelcome violation of the land. Similarly, Cadi's exploration of the home — not to mention her tasting of their food — is an increasing disruption of their domestic space. The Feast sets up what appears to be a trap for Cadi, but gradually turns the tables, revealing the aristocrats to be much less in control than they had foolishly believed.
Ultimately, the family's downfall is their need to consume. The family — particularly Glenda and Gwen — have a violent relationship with their decadent food and wine. There's a shot of Glenda knocking the seeds out of a pomegranate that is framed like a blood-splattered crime scene. Gwyn gleefully kills two rabbits, then throws down the limp bodies on a counter with a force that suggests a total disregard and disrespect for other living beings. Glenda skins and butchers the rabbits methodically, chopping off one's head with a look of mild irritation. The couple may live among nature in their home, but they lack a fundamental respect for the environment. Even the son Guto complains about the area, lamenting to Cadi that he would rather be in the city for drugs and parties. For his part, Gweirydd's sins are much more subtle: his transgression against nature involves past deviant behavior, as well as an obvious narcissistic obsession with his own physicality.
There are several references to the family's selfishness and corruption throughout The Feast — like repeated shots of the family staring lovingly into their own reflection, or Gwyn's comment that he and his wife have incredible "thirst." Glenda and Gwyn are mainly motivated by avarice; even the dinner party is a ploy to manipulate the guests for the couple's own ends. It's easy to despise these people, which makes the supernatural twist all the more satisfying. The slow-burn approach to thrills in The Feast won't satisfy all viewers, and there will be those who feel that the film is dull or even too tame. Yet, the gradual, chilling pace is a calculated strategy to organically build the aforementioned themes. The characters all feel real, which gives weight to their suffering (even if they are unlikable). The Feast is a brilliant indie horror that weaves fantasy and folklore into a thoughtful cautionary tale against disrespecting nature — a message that feels particularly important for today's audiences.
The Feast releases in theaters in North America and VOD on November 19, 2021 and is 93 minutes long.