The last section of Lee Haven Jones’ debut feature The Feast opens with a title card reading, ‘After you’ve taken everything, what will be left?’ — a defiantly anti-capitalist sentiment that rings throughout this atmospheric slow-burn. Haven Jones’ decision to shoot the film in Welsh feels particularly important to a country that often feels disenfranchised from the British political system. The film’s concerns with wealth and the environment feel particularly important for Wales: a country with a vast history of coal mining, opposition to fracking and the highest rate of child poverty in the UK.
Haven Jones’ film, that follows a young woman asked to cater a dinner party for a rich family and their guests in the Welsh countryside (in the same house from last year’s Kevin Bacon-led You Should Have Left?) deals out a hefty dose of rich people-bashing (we love to see it) and a slow, unravelling exposure of their ability to pay their way in — or out— of any situation, despite their shortcomings as decent human beings.
Waitress Cadi (Annes Elwy) enters the ultra-modern and chillingly-empty country home of Glenda (Nia Roberts) and alcoholic MP Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones) as they prepare to host a dinner for their business partner Euros (Rhodri Meilir) and local farmer Mair (Lisa Palfrey), whom they are luring to the house to convince Mair to give them access to her farmland to drill for minerals. Glenda and Gwyn’s two disgraced sons Guto (Steffan Cennydd), a faux-rock star type drug addict, and Gweirydd (Sion Alun Davies), a triathlete sex addict, are added to the mix of this unfortunate clan. Cadi lurks amongst these conversations, quietly preparing food for the guests and moving through the sleek, modern space like an inquisitive child.
Of course, things at the dinner start to go awry, and Cadi remains central to the strange goings on. The camera glides through the blank corridors with Cadi, into the strange rooms, across the white walls and Glenda’s peculiar all-black relaxation room reminiscent of a prison cell. The current trend to place horror cinema outside of creaking Victorian mansions and into the modern architectural spaces of the very rich — Parasite, Revenge, Goodnight Mommy, The Night Hosue to name a few — creates a borderline medical-centre atmosphere, where a tone both pristine and horrific is maintained even without blood on the walls — though when blood is eventually spilled, the smatters of red read more as a modern art piece collected and displayed by the exact type of bourgeoise inhabitants these spaces yearn for; a delicate balance of beauty and repugnance.
The film is rife with symbolism (perhaps even heavy handed) and one may find multiple readings of The Feast to enjoy. Cadi can represent Mother Nature incarnate entering the home, angered by the plans to drill into her countryside, or a spirit awakened by a drilling accident in the film’s opening. The rich family in many ways represent the seven deadly sins, or each family member a different plague upon God’s green earth: sex, drugs, politics, violence and wealth.
Admittedly such themes and visual representations might be too on the nose for some, perhaps even entry-level horror symbolism, but for others a contemporary exploration of class division and eco-horror can be found in amongst these sanitised walls. The Feast is certainly rich in allegory and metaphor, meandering with a slow-burn restraint not many debut filmmakers possess, with a hyper-violent and weird finale akin to the best of the New French Extremity.
The Feast is out in cinemas and on VOD from November 19th
by Chloe Leeson
Chloë (she/her) is the founder of SQ. She is a costume designer and trainee teacher living in the North East of England. She thrives watching 90s Harmony Korine Letterman interviews and bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. Find her on Twitter @sqchloe and on Letterboxd here.