The Feast is a fine feature debut for Jones, building an effectively eerie tone and supporting it with lovely compositions and gnarly inserts.
Lee Haven Jones’ The Feast is rather a perfect companion to fellow SXSW title Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched, touching on all of the folk horror pet themes the documentary associates with the subgenre. Filmed entirely in Welsh, it’s a simple — even quaint — exercise. Glenda (Nia Roberts) and her husband Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones), an apparently wealthy couple, are preparing to host a dinner party. They’ve hired a hostess for the evening, a young woman named Cadi (Annes Elwy), and right away the ever-so-slightly-spooky stuff starts happening. Cadi never speaks and seems timid, almost childlike even. Dirt stains seem to appear wherever she’s been, although she’s perfectly clean. And she somehow knows by heart an old song Glenda used to sing with her mother. Meanwhile, the couple’s troublesome sons, Guto and Gweirydd (Steffan Cennydd and Sion Alun Davies, respectively) appear aggressive and dangerous, with the former having what seems at first to be a minor accident with an ax and the latter pursuing his special diet of raw meat.
Most of The Feast is taken up by the family’s bickering, the increasingly ooky issue with Guto’s injured foot, and the banqueters being alternately amused and repelled by Cadi’s precocity. Glenda seems particularly unpleasant, insisting to one of the guests, their banker, that they’re about to strike it rich by selling drilling rights to their acres of land, which has been in the family for generations. Strangely, when people start coughing up hairballs or nearly having heart attacks or what have you, Cadi springs into action to assist, and nobody seems particularly perturbed afterward. Is she a stranger trapped with a bunch of rich assholes, or is she perhaps the source of these disturbances? Three guesses.
There may be some cultural specificity to Wales that’s being missed by this assessment, but even if so, down to its bones this is a story of people spiritually and physically detached from their land, metaphorically disentangled from their roots, and Cadi is, of course, the vengeful spirit that’s come to disrupt their lives, making this almost a dirt-caked variation on something like Teorema, but without the directly political subtext. It’s a fine feature debut for Jones, and he shows skill in complementing his eerie tone with compositions largely consisting of lovely but placid master shots and gnarly inserts, ultimately making the most of his two main locations: the angular, minimalist house and the foggy, damp surrounding of forest and cliffs.
Originally published as part of SXSW Film Festival 2021 — Dispatch 3.