The film follows Holly (Sienna Guillory) and her two daughters, Betsey (Jessica Alexander) and Isabelle (Ruby Stokes). As the film begins, we learn the family has suffered through something traumatic and horrifying when Holly’s husband died after suffering a horrible sickness. In the present day, the family of three continue to move forward, attempting not to dwell on the sadness and loss of their past.
Holly’s oldest daughter Betsey is at an age where big choices are required to be made as she will soon be graduating from high school. But Betsey is unsure of what to do with her life, and naturally, pressures are coming from all around, including her mother. One evening Betsey attends a party where she takes an unknown pill and finds herself feeling confused and dazed to the point she walks into the forest all on her own. But when Betsey returns home, she feels unwell and seems completely different. Betsey begins to feel sick whenever she is surrounded by food and doesn’t even feel like eating. Her body and mind are changing dramatically, and Betsey is confident that something evil occurred to her while she was at the party, something that drugs or alcohol couldn’t be responsible for. As a mother, Holly must now choose to either accept her daughter’s claims and help her or doubt her daughter altogether.
A Banquet is a unique horror film. There are no major jump scares or large amounts of gore. What makes this a horror film are its creative moments which are either tense or unsettling to watch. There is a fun mystery introduced that I found quite engaging, and I was curious to know the truth. I was curious to know if Betsey was going through big changes or if she was just going through a major health challenge like her father once did. As an audience, we continually guess at this as Holly wrestles with how she should support her daughter.
When it comes to the tones of this film, some moments are enjoyable, and the visuals are pleasing. The various shots around the family home are strong and pleasing in style. However, while A Banquet begins strongly, to my surprise, the film goes in an unexpected and, sadly, disappointing direction. For the vast majority, A Banquet feels disjointed between scenes and honestly, I found some moments confusing and vague. This includes the final moments, which bring very little conclusion or closure. The finale only left me frowning with more questions that are never answered.
Holly as a character is also questionable. She delivers lines that are over the top, not matched to key moments on-screen and, at times, feels blasé, especially when it comes to handling some situations with her daughter. I officially found myself checking out when this film fast-forwarded through time. As a result of this fast forward through time, we find the family in a situation that feels highly unbelievable, questionable, and unrealistic in so many ways.
Overall, I admire this film’s concept and premise as a unique horror style. The film begins with a dark plot and an interesting mystery, and the film’s visuals are pleasing. There are some moments of nervous tension; however, what starts as a bit of fun soon becomes a disjointed film packed with vague and unrealistic aspects. This includes the ending, which I’m still trying to get my head around. The leading characters and their performances are also questionable as it feels like a mismatch based on the story. This movie had strong potential to be something highly different in the genre of horror, but instead, it’s a messy film with unclear plot details, which are bound to baffle many. A Banquet (2021) is Available on Shudder from May 26th!