Review: A Banquet

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Title: A Banquet
Director: Ruth Paxton
Starring: Jessica Alexander, Sienna Guillory, Ruby Stokes
Runtime: 1hr 37min
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated

What It Is: A widowed mother is radically tested when her teenage daughter insists a supernatural experience has left her body in service to a higher power.

What We Think: From the small synopsis above, I can hear small sighs across the board. Yes, this isn’t the first time the horror genre merges with family drama, and it certainly won’t be the last – but there are a few qualities here that almost manage to separate this film from the rest of the melodramatic crowd.

For starters, everyone in the cast delivers exceptionally well. Alexander (unnerving), Guillory (tragic), and Stokes (tense) make up a very interesting family dynamic, one that definitely tugs at your heartstrings most of the time, but also deeply chills you in certain scenes. The second aspect I loved was the sound design. There’s a very creative way in which sounds like knives scraping a plate are amplified and distressed to disturbing results – they engulfed me into the supernatural horrors that the characters experience, along with some well-timed pieces of the score, which serves its purpose. Lastly, the film is well shot, with sequences taking place at night being lit to a tee; there’s something about horror films that make nighttime sequences feel like they’re shot with a dim flashlight on their subjects unbearable to me, and luckily with A Banquet that isn’t the case. Characters disappearing into darkness and haunting wide angles of liminal spaces make the presentation very unsettling.

The main gripe I have with A Banquet is the main story. It goes down an existentialist path (with a sprinkle of “inevitability”) which doesn’t really feel as massive or worrisome as it should. If the supernatural actions were more broad and not as contained (solely between a few characters), there would’ve been a more dire nature added to that element of the story. Nevertheless, if you’re looking to get spooked, you’ll be satisfied here.

Our Grade: B-; A fairly frightening flick, A Banquet has great performances and a very dynamic presentation, but a story that is devious and not as resonant as the images onscreen.

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