VMDIFF 2022 Review | Welsh Eco-Horror The Feast Is a Lot To Stomach
The Feast begins with a close-up shot of an oil rig that has just struck liquid gold in a remote area in rural Wales. As well as being a catalyst for what is to come, this image serves as an apt metaphor for the excesses and greed of the film’s central family, as well as the sticky end that is never in any doubt from the beginning. Unnerving and hypnotic, this Welsh language eco-horror makes fascinating connections between the natural world and the world of overconsumption in ways that blend together in devastating style.
Lee Haven Jones’ psychological feature plays out over the course of half a day, following a mysterious and seemingly preoccupied young woman, Cadi (Annes Elwy), who arrives at the remote lavish family home of a Welsh MP to act as hired help for an important dinner party taking place that evening. The reason for the dinner soon becomes apparent and is related to the film’s opening shots: husband Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones) and wife Glenda (Nia Roberts) have invited a business man (Rhodhri Meilir) and a local farmer (Lisa Palfrey) over, intending to broker a deal for further mining operations on nearby land.
Of course, the outward corruption destroying the surrounding the countryside can’t be kept at bay: this wealth and power is damaging the family from within. From the outset, the family are already dysfunctional (and not in a fun way either: think Succession rather than Arrested Development), the most obvious example being son Gweirydd (Sion Alun Davies) who has taken an enforced break from studying medicine and now spends his time training for a triathlon while observing Cadi with a serial killer-like glint. However, when Glenda invites Cadi to enter their home (or should I say demands) there is the distinct feeling that the already porous barriers between the natural and civilised worlds are about to take a further pounding.
Coming across like a fever dream, Cadi vacillates between assisting Glenda prepare the courses, spending time with Gweirydd and his heroin-dependent brother Guto (Steffan Cennydd), and exploring their far-from-humble abode. Elwy plays Cadi with an ethereal energy as she handles the family’s lucrative possessions almost as though they are foreign objects to her, which indeed the film’s supernatural undertones hint they may be. The foreboding atmosphere slowly ratchets up as Cadi struggles to skin the rabbits that Gwyn has presented, later throwing up onto the dish before it’s served. As events become more and more frenzied the line between who or what the feast will entail blurs and Cadi’s influence over the family and their guests increases. Ingenious cuts between scenes will have the viewer questioning how much of what they just saw really happened.
Playing out with a mix of the visceral from Julie Ducournau’s Raw (2016) and the visuals from Park Chan-wook’s Stoker (2013) with a supernatural twist, The Feast unsettles in all the right ways. It could also work as a spiritual revenge sequel to William McGregor’s Gwen (2018), the haunting exploration of industrial destruction in nineteeth-century Snowdonia. With excellent performances and Elwy firmly in control as the lynchpin of the drama, The Feast may make you throw up your lunch but it will be worth it.
The Feast will be screened at the 2022 Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival on 26 February, with a cinema release expected in the summer.