A Banquet tells the story of widowed mother Holly (Sienna Guillory), who, after the shocking suicide of her husband, has noticed that her teenage daughter Betsey (Jessica Alexander) has stopped eating. Concerned about her daughter’s health, Holly tries to reach out to her, but tensions mount and it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary eating disorder.
It’s a busy story with a lot of moving pieces, discussing a wide range of themes: the struggles of growing up, dealing with trauma, family drama and the heat death of the universe are just some of the themes at play in A Banquet. Despite this, the film does a great job of tying all these disparate elements and motifs together, making sure that every component flows organically into the next for a coherent and very interesting tale.
While, at times, the narrative feels as if it is dragging its feet, it nevertheless is able to create a consistent atmosphere of tension and dread throughout. This is aided by the strong performances of its leading ladies, with Guillory and Alexander working hard to capture a complex array of deep emotions. Their performances are at once raw and tender, adding to the intensity of the piece and helping to elevate some of the weaker parts of the script.
The cinematography also does some very interesting things to imbue the film with a distinct visual identity that emphasises the dread at its heart. Particularly effective is the way A Banquet plays with its food, so to speak. The camerawork and sound design emphasise the sensory experiences of handling and eating food and lean into the grotesque. Acts as simple and innocuous as chewing and cutting food as represented as viscerally and uncomfortably as possible, bringing to mind gore and entrails. This narrative oral fixation makes the familiarity of eating food feel strange and unnatural, disrupting the ordinary flow of life and replacing it with horror in a fascinating way.
While sometimes A Banquet bites off more than it can chew, it more or less sticks the landing on the back of its grotesquely compelling cinematography and excellent character work. This film is definitely recommended to horror buffs, although perhaps not on a full stomach.
A Banquet is released in select cinemas and digitally on demand on 11th March 2022.
Watch the trailer for A Banquet here: