For the Eyes

A Welsh horror film?  Lately Euro-horror has caught my attention.  European sensibilities give horror a distinctive flavor, and The Feast doesn’t pull the usual horror tricks.  And reading the subtitles keeps you on your toes.  It’s more a slow build that manages to be unnerving from the start.  A family of four—parents and two boys in their late teens or early twenties—is hosting a feast.  A local girl, Cadi, is hired to help cater the affair.  The family is really seeking to get a neighbor to allow exploratory mineral drilling on her land.  She refuses, horrified when they mention that they’ll only drill on the rise.  The neighbor, aghast, says they know better because they’ll awaken “her.”  The unnamed her is a goddess who is within the rise and who’s been disturbed by the family’s drilling on the land adjacent to their neighbors’ property.

A number of aspects push this beyond Euro-horror.  The goddess, treated as superstition by the family, introduces religion into the horror.  (Cadi, as it turns out, died on her way to the house and the goddess inhabited her body.)  The remote location and role of the countryside also bring this into the folk horror realm.  Having an underlying ecological message, the film is eco-horror as well.  As such it has a positive message, even as all those at the feast, apart from the uncompromising neighbor, die before the evening is out.  Gods will express their wrath.  Although there’s gore, the concept is intelligent and possessed Cady’s unwillingness to speak throughout much of the film adds to the tension.

Horror films with subtitles sometimes don’t work, but The Feast manages pretty well.  Much of the disturbing atmosphere comes from the house.  A modern construction, built over what had formerly been the family’s farm, stands in stark contrast to the natural world all around.  As is often the case in eco-horror, the land is waiting to take its revenge.  It’s a message appropriate for a time when we fail to live up to our own environmental standards, and consider the checks and balances of nature itself as “superstition.”  Maybe a goddess will not awaken and kill everyone at the dinner party, but the wealthy will not be spared, as the movie prophesies.  We share the planet and the earth allows us to survive.  There’s a sense that we deserve to be reminded that living on a finite planet requires careful stewardship of it all.  If you’re going to throw a feast, at least make sure it’s not at the expense of nature.  Some goddesses are best not aroused.

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