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'The Feast'

by Piers Marchant | January 7, 2022 at 1:31 a.m.
Villager Cadi (Annes Elwy) isn’t quite the sweet-faced innocent she at first seems in veteran Welsh filmmaker Villager Cadi (Annes Elwy) isn’t quite the sweet-faced innocent she at first seems in veteran Welsh filmmaker Lee Haven Jones’ “The Feast.”Lee Haven Jones’ “The Feast.”

‘The Feast’

87 Cast: Annes Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis Jones, Sion Alun Davies, Steffan Cennydd, Rhodri Meilir, Lisa Palfrey, Caroline Berry

Director: Lee Haven Jones

Rating: Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

In Welsh and English with English subtitles

Available for rental on digital platforms like iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and more

Available to rent or buy from most streaming services, including Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

Filmed in a gorgeously untouched part of Wales, with dialogue entirely in Welsh, Lee Haven Jones' horror film feels rooted in the natural world, an important synergy considering the theme, which concerns an angry forest spirit who takes human form long enough to violently dispatch a family of pompous, well-to-do knaves.

A small, fancy dinner party is being assembled by Delyth (Caroline Berry), on orders from her lout of a husband, Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones), a cozy politician with a sizable ego, in order to facilitate a mineral rights discussion between Euros (Rhodri Meilir), a slimy-rich prospector, and their more simplistic farmer neighbor, Mair (Lisa Palfrey), whom they want to convince to sell in order to reap a fat profit. Needing help to put the dinner together, and not getting any offers from her vile grown sons, Guto (Steffan Cennydd), an addict; and, Gweirydd (Sion Alun Davies), a predatory type, Delyth brings in young Cadi (Annes Elwy), up from the nearby village to help things run smoothly.

Only, Cadi, generally a sweet-faced innocent, doesn't quite seem herself: She barely talks, for one thing, and seems easily distracted -- a trip to change her shirt in Delyth's closet leads to a sustained session of her trying on her employer's jewelry and giggling at herself in the mirror. It's also increasingly clear that she brings menace to the household: Gwyn keeps hearing high-pitched wailing in his ears when she gets near him; she takes the jonesing Guto to the forest to snatch mushrooms for him to inject into his veins; she retches into one tray of food before popping it into the oven, and so forth.

After Mair reminds Delyth of the warnings they always heard as children not to climb the rise for fear of angering "her," it becomes more clear that the avarice and lack of environmental care of Gwyn and his family -- living, as they do, in a brand-new, ultramodern mansion with materials imported from all over the world -- has awakened a vengefully violent retribution, in the form of the formerly demure Cadi, now overtaken by the dark magicks of the woods, and proceeds to systematically dismantle the family members, either by her own hand, or by having them turn on one another.

Its environmental message, while more than welcome, is perhaps made a bit too bludgeoning (a fair word choice) by the end -- Jones' inspired atmospherics and haunting visual style work better in more shaded bands of esoterica -- but as a piece of well-crafted, disturbing agitprop, it's a worthy enough banquet of bloody recrimination.

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