Another film in the current folk horror revival, The Feast has a strange feel to it right from the start. Director Lee Haven Jones ( Doctor Who, Pobol y Cwm) and writer Roger Williams (Gwaith/Cartref, Tales from Pleasure Beach) set the film in their native Wales and all the dialogue is in Welsh. So while the locations are recognizably somewhere in the UK, the characters all talk in an incredibly odd-sounding language, putting any non-Welsh viewers off balance right from the start.
Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones, Justice League, Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter) is an influential man, wealthy and a Member of Parliament. When not in London he, his wife Glenda (Nia Roberts, Yr Amgueddfa, Midsomer Murders) and their two sons Guto (Steffan Cennydd, Last Summer, The Pembrokeshire Murders) and Gweirydd (Sion Alun Davies, The Left behind, Hidden) live on a large estate that used to be a farm.
Gwyn has also made a lot of money exploiting the mineral rights to the land. Tonight he and Glenda plan to introduce their neighbour Mair (Lisa Palfrey, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain) to the mining company’s agent Euros (Rhodri Meilir). Unfortunately, their usual cook was unavailable, but they highly recommended Cadi (Annes Elwy, King Arthur: Excalibur Rising, Little Women).
Given the plot and the cast and crew’s television backgrounds, one could be forgiven for thinking that The Feast was another of those serious dramas that British television excels at. And the film’s slow-burn nature does little to dispel that notion. The family’s secrets and flaws begin to be revealed, Guto’s drug addiction, the fact that something changed Gweirydd’s career path from doctor to professional triathlete. While talking business Euros hands Gwyn an envelope full of cash, indicating his corrupt nature.
As for Cadi, there’s obviously something different about her. She seems a bit simple-minded, staring off into space, rarely speaking and seemingly enchanted by ordinary things. Odd, but nothing that would seem threatening. Something that will change as the night wears on and she goes from leaving dirty footprints to bloody ones.
The cast, made up of veterans of Welsh television may not be familiar faces but they are all very talented and give an edge to the early parts of The Feast. Making seemingly routine domestic drama, if not outright soap opera, seem sinister isn’t easy but they manage it. Elwy shines in an especially difficult role as her character repeatedly changes throughout the film until her true nature is revealed. Davies also deserves a mention for making Gweirydd the closest thing to a likable member this family has. By the end of the film, I actually felt sorry for him. Dealing with family like his would probably have driven me to pick up a needle as well.
Once its slow-burn fully ignites, The Feast serves up some truly horrifying martial. Some of it quite explicitly, others made quite clear even if they aren’t, or can’t, be clearly shown. I certainly winced more than once before it was all over, sometimes more at what wasn’t shown than at what was.
Merging a revenge of nature theme with a literal eat the rich sensibility The Feast is, an unsettling addition to the folk horror genre, one that can take a place alongside La Llorona, In the Earth and Midsommar. But, as I watched it I could help feeling that something didn’t quite make sense, almost as though I had missed something of importance. Whether that is an intentional part of the film’s nature or something did get by me I’m not sure, which is reason enough to give it a second viewing.