Chances are even big fans of foreign horror don’t have much experience with Welsh-language genre flicks. If that’s the case for you, and you’d like to do something about it, The Feast just might be the fitting introduction you’re looking for. This lush film from director Lee Haven Jones and writer Roger Williams was SXSW’s midnight movie this year and is a fairytale-esque treat for the mind and the senses. The Feast stars Annes Elwy, Julian Lewis Jones, and Nia Roberts, among others.
The Feast’s folktale influence is apparent right away, as the film is broken up into six different parts. Like the chapters in a book, each is introduced with a Roman numeral and a heading that hints subtly at what’s to come next. The opening scene is also appropriately ominous, showing a laborer at a Welsh countryside drilling site. He’s stumbling away in obvious pain as a mysterious ringing noise pierces his eardrums, and it’s strongly implied that the countryside itself may be upset by what he’s doing there.
Cut to a spacious and stylish modern home on a hill in the same rural location. This is the home of Glenda (Roberts) and Gwyn (Jones), as well as their two sons, Guto (Steffan Cennydd) and Gweirydd (Siôn Alun Davies). Guto is battling a substance abuse problem and appears to be losing that battle miserably, while Gweirydd is wholly absorbed in training for a triathlon. Gwyn is in politics, while Glenda’s main concern at the moment appears to be planning an elaborate upcoming dinner party.
When Glenda’s usual catering help turns out to be unavailable to assist this time around, she takes on the eccentric Cadi, a young worker from one of the local pubs. It quickly becomes apparent that Cadi isn’t terribly invested in her work, as she keeps losing herself in thought. She also is repeatedly distracted by various objects around the house, including an abstract painting of the local area and some old personal things that once belonged to Glenda’s mother.
It’s not long before things start to take a strange and bloody turn with the members of the family. For instance, Guto injures himself after dropping an ax, while Gweirydd endures a nasty cut while shaving his genitals. Gwyn also finds his ears assaulted by the same ear-splitting noise from the beginning of the movie when he attempts to make a pass at Cadi. Things don’t get much better when the dinner guests start showing up and the evening spirals into increasingly dark territory.
Like many films of this type, The Feast is something of a slow burn. However, Lee Haven Jones knows his stuff when it comes to pacing. The audience is aware from the beginning that something definitely isn’t right, but it’s not entirely clear what. As the plot progresses, Jones gradually steers the film away from strictly psychological territory to the potentially supernatural, and it’s an exciting ride. Beautiful production design, an eerie score, and the unusual sound of the Welsh language itself all add even more to the odd, dreamlike atmosphere.
As The Feast draws ever closer to its inevitably disturbing conclusion, it makes its identity as a horror film known with plenty of gore, body horror elements, and horrifying hallucinations. The big reveal may seem underwhelming to some, but it fits the grim, fairytale situation Jones has created here. Add fantastic acting to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a unique, highly entertaining feature in The Feast if slow-burning rural tales set in faraway lands are your jam.