Monday, May 23, 2022

A Banquet (2022)


Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: A Banquet (2022)
Genre: Horror
Length: 1h 37min
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Tea Shop Productions, Riverstone Pictures, Reliance Entertainment Productions 8, IFC Midnight, Front Row Filmed Entertainment, HanWay Films, Shaw Organisation, AMC+, Shudder
Director: Ruth Paxton
Writer: Justin Ball
Actors: Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes, Lindsay Duncan, Kaine Zajaz, Richard Keep, Deka Walmsley, Rina Mahoney
IMDb Blurb: Widowed mother Holly is radically tested when her teenage daughter Betsey experiences a profound enlightenment and insists that her body is no longer her own, but in service to a higher power. Bound to her newfound faith Betsey refuses to eat, but loses no weight. In an agonising dilemma torn between love and fear, Holly is forced to confront the boundaries of her own beliefs.

Cat’s Point of View:
I am frustrated with A Banquet. It had the potential to be a visual feast for horror fans, but the fare was underseasoned.
That being said, let me focus on the positives from this movie before I get into the rest.
A Banquet took good advantage of an interesting setting. I loved the house the family resided in. It was architecturally fascinating. There were some stunning visuals offered to the audience here. I particularly enjoyed the shots of the moon. Had this production gone better, overall, I would be giving kudos that its release was timed on the heels of a very real blood moon lunar eclipse event. Eerie coincidence, perhaps, but because the night sky was little more than window dressing in the story, it amounts to naught.

The acting performances were all solid. Everything felt believable. No one was too dramatic or over-the-top. I bought in on every emotion conveyed by the grieving and strained family, and it all seemed visceral and genuine.
There were even moments when I really identified with the characters. Those blips in time where the characters spaced out from everything because they were simply overwhelmed were completely relatable for me. It was also easy for me to step into the mother's shoes. I have been on a rollercoaster with my own daughter, and it's definitely hard to try everything in your power to help your child and, yet,  feel helpless when they continue to struggle. 

Unfortunately, then A Banquet lost me.

When we watched the trailer to consider A Banquet for the February 2022 Top 20 article, I was generally uncomfortable with what I saw in the trailer. I held out hope that the story would work out and justify these choices, but alas there was no payoff.
It’s a seriously tricky thing to toy with eating disorders in a movie – especially these days. You don’t want to send mixed messages or mishandle the portrayal. In the case of A Banquet I can’t really decide whether or not it would be effective as a cautionary tale. I was relieved that anorexia was not glorified or treated lightly. The family reacted appropriately – for the most part. 
Another issue that made A Banquet problematic for me was its pacing. Things progressed so slowly that I struggled to stay tuned in to what was going on. I had to replay a few scenes because I started nodding off. My ADHD was acting up and as soon as my attention started to drift, fatigue tried to set in. I managed to make it all the way through, but it was not a small effort.  

I was left with so many questions as the final credits rolled following the strange and unsatisfying ending.
A Banquet had the potential to take this story in a different direction, and unfortunately meandered away from its more redeemable qualities. As a horror story, this was certainly successful – it was a shockingly horrific experience… especially watching from a parent’s perspective. It is not, however, something I would seek out to watch again or steer others towards. 
Shudder will be releasing A Banquet for members of their streaming service on Thursday, May 26th.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 54%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 50%
Metascore – 59%
Metacritic User Score – 5.010
IMDB Score –4.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2/5

Trust the Dice: Parental Guidance Rating – R
Movie Trailer:

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