Food and the female body are a potent recipe for horror, and this recipe is taken to a supernatural extreme in Ruth Paxton’s domestic horror. After the horrifying (accidental?) death of the family patriarch and some discomfiting events at a party, Holly’s teenage daughter Betsey insists that she no longer needs food – her body is fully nourished by the being she serves. Holly’s concern gives way to bafflement when Betsey loses no weight or physical health and violently rejects the slightest sustenance; a fight over a single pea is stomach-turning even before the retching and convulsions. When visions of demons made from rotten fruits and flesh appear, A Banquet nosedives into the supernatural while maintaining an almost repressed stuffiness. 

This combination of shown, never told domestic scenes and something larger, scarier, and decidedly non-domestic never quite meshes through Paxton’s lens and James Bull’s script. A Banquet wavers too long on the edge of being too ambiguous. When the unexplained and uncanny occur, a degree of paranoia drives the plot forward; here, the British stiff upper lip replaces the genre indulgence, and the film is poorer for this restraint. The ending, which like any possession drama should shake the earth, carries none of the punch of the catastrophic opening. 

While limited in palette, the performances are solid across the board. Sienna Guillory captures Holly’s no-nonsense approach to family unification in the aftermath of tragedy. Betsey’s lost place in the world is contrasted skilfully with the peace and calm she finds from a higher purpose in Jessica Alexander’s excellent turn. However, their clashes feel lightweight aside from the one pea incident.

Despite a stellar opening, promising premise, solid performances, and some well-deployed imagery, A Banquet never picks up the steam it needs to carry its chills and thrills to the finish line. 



CAST: Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes, Kaine Zajaz, Lindsay Duncan

DIRECTOR: Ruth Paxton

WRITER: Justin Bull 

SYNOPSIS: Newly widowed Holly is perplexed by her daughter Betsey’s refusal of all food – and when she shows no ill effects she wonders if the being Betsey claims to be possessing her might truly exist.