Fairytales and fables are the means by which we absorb important life lessons. Filled with hope as well as caution, we take these lessons with us as we navigate the world and its many obstacles. But, as the world undergoes rapid changes, new stories are needed to capture the growing dangers that are barrelling down on us. That’s why the latest venture from Director Lee Haven Jones and writer/producer Roger Williams feels essential to this reviewer. THE FEAST (GWLEDD) is an almost flawless contemporary horror fairytale reminding us of the tales we would tell each other around the campfire to send shivers down our spine. It is foreboding; the tale itself an omen of things to come should we not heed the destructive path we’re on. And we would be wise to heed the warnings.
The film stars Annes Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis, Steffan Cennydd, and Sion Alun Davies. THE FEAST (GWLEDD) takes place over the course of an evening. The cast of characters consists of a wealthy family, a business owner, a neighboring farmer, and a waitress named Cadi (Elwy). Over the course of the evening, a mirror is shown to each family member. Cadi’s presence is quiet, yet foreboding. She observes all and none of the family’s secrets are safe from her. In fact, they will bear all by the film’s end. And all will learn that actions have consequences. By violating the sacred Welsh land, this family will learn that there is a price to pay for their bottomless greed.
There is a subtle horror at play in THE FEAST (GWLEDD), with tension steadily building throughout, until the final act. It’s akin to someone slowly boiling a frog alive on the stove. You can feel the heat rising but, by the time you realize that you’re caught, it’s too late. Jones and Williams come together, executing this skin-tingling terror expertly. By the film’s end, the viewer can easily be taken through a variety of different emotions but, in the final shot, despite everything that has happened, the heartbreak is palatable.
Sound plays an important part in THE FEAST (GWLEDD), with Samuel Sim’s score evoking a number of feelings as the film plays out. For those unfamiliar, Sim has co-composed Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance score, which is on my repeat listening list. There’s an ethereal nature to the music once we’re in the house. But, as Cadi’s presence starts to change the environment of the home and the family itself, the music shifts and picks up on the swelling power inside the mysterious woman. Coupled with Dom Corbisiero’s sound design and Editor Kevin Jones’ work integrating everything in, part of how the film succeeds in putting us on edge is through the mastery of its sound.
Another element that plays a pivotal part is the setting. With THE FEAST (GWLEDD) taking part predominantly in this affluent family’s home, it was essential to get the tone and feeling right. As the viewer’s first introduction into this family’s life and, as first impressions go, the house is cold and barren despite the presumed visual status it represents. It juts out in the lush green countryside like an eyesore. Production Designer Gwyn Eiddior couldn’t have done better in the design as it reveals just a taste of what the viewer will experience before actually meeting the family.
The well-executed setting, sound, and story are all fine and dandy. But quality performances are needed to glue all of these elements together or else the film will buckle. As a credit to the performers in THE FEAST (GWLEDD), there is not a bad performance in the bunch. Annes Elwy is captivating onscreen as Cadi; her silent performance brings the viewer in. As she steadily peels back the layers to her character, we are introduced to a strength and intensity that permeates through her pores. Nia Roberts also delivers a layered performance as Glenda, the matriarch of the family. There’s a nouveau riche attitude about her and, whether or not the character knows it, she is being pulled from all directions as her upbringing and ambitious pursuits clash.
For those desiring more explicit horror, there are several instances of body horror that will make your skin crawl. Between maggoted encrusted flesh wounds, clumps of hair pulled from the depths of the throat, and more, the team did not skimp. And the performers gave excruciatingly believable performances as they carried out these acts onscreen. One scene, in particular, maybe one of those scenes that draws a lot of focus in the horror community due to its implications. As I watched it unfold, I wanted to talk to everyone about it but it is a moment that can’t be spoiled in order for the shock to smack a viewer upside the face.
There are story elements in THE FEAST (GWLEDD) itself that could have been finessed. There is a mentioning of past misdeeds of one of the sons that seems thrown out there just to get it out there. Removing this moment wouldn’t have detracted away from what we knew of the character given the foreshadowing. Later in the third act of the film, there is an edit with Glenda changing clothing that might throw others off due to an apparent lack of transition between these quick cuts. As a final comment, there are some viewers that might find the overall story itself predictable, which is fair. However, if one takes a step back and views it from the lens of a fairytale designed to warn us away from certain actions, the familiarity of tropes used in the film are easily forgiven.
I eagerly await the think pieces that may be birthed post-viewing of THE FEAST (GWLEDD). There is so much to be taken in about the reckoning that may come to those who continue to wreak havoc on our environment. When profits become the only focus, pain and the development of bottomless greed are the only things to follow. And, in the tale that Lee Haven Jones and Roger Williams have constructed for us to consume, this is a tale that will be shared again and again for its sheer universal themes and the horror and anxiety it invokes inside the soul.
THE FEAST (GWLEDD) had its world premiere at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.