SXSW 2021: 'The Feast', 'Broadcast Signal Intrusion' | Horror, Thriller | Capsule Reviews
A lovely dinner with a family and some special guests, served by a barely-talking and death staring young lady, what possibly could go wrong? Welsh-made and performed in the language as well, The Feast (Gwledd in Welsh) which is directed by Lee Haven Jones and written by Roger Williams, crescendos slowly to a nasty ending as the day goes on in the countryside. Aforementioned server is Cadi (Annes Elwy), the family consists of Glenda (Nia Roberts), Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones) and their two sons Guto (Steffan Cennydd) and Gweirydd (Sion Alun Davies). Cadi's presence seems to affect some of them and even their house gradually, before the dinner guests Mair (Lisa Palfrey) and Euros (Rhodri Meilir) show up to experience some of that themselves.
The slow build doesn't necessarily mean that nothing happens in the first hour, there is some cool imagery to feast upon with your eyes along the way. But it would be a huge miss if the payoff wasn't there and it is there in this case, the ending mixes really well some subgenres of horror like slasher, supernatural and folk. There is also plenty of crossover with that section and makeup department's work as it involves some bloody and grisly FX makeup which is then in turn implemented in following scenes, adding to the shock factor. The Feast really propels forward with the horror side of things which is great because the character writing is a hit or miss.
Undoubtedly the movie swings for the fences with choices concerning some characters and maybe it would require something different from casting or director in order to work so you might give some slack to actors. In regards to this film, the problem really lies with the character we see most of as in Cadi and in the fact that Elwy isn't grabbing your attention with her performance. The choice not to have Cadi speak often sinks this movie somewhat in itself since those moments are just awkward and laughable rather than building tension for the explosive ending. Those are moments where Elwy struggles as if there was no one to act against, instead of suspense we just get an young woman looking like she is afraid to ask for water when visiting a friend's house for the first time.
Smileys: Ending, makeup
Frowneys: Annes Elwy
BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION
James (played by Harry Shum Jr.) is a video system repairman and the decade is the 1990s, a dead giveaway from the job title. One day at work he comes across some recordings that show pirate broadcasters hacking their videos onto some television programming and those broadcasts feature some unsettling imagery as well as creepy people. As the job is pretty mundane, it's no surprise that James gets intrigued enough to find the source of them, even hoping to uncover some dangerous mysteries.
Credit where credit is due, director Jacob Gentry's Broadcast Signal Intrusion certainly has the ambition to be the next cult hit and grungy mystery tale, how it succeeds in that is another thing altogether. The film looks perfect for the neo-noir thriller genre with interesting lens work by cinematographer Scott Thiele and lighting of spaces which oozes the right amount of nastiness. Booming with the brass section, the score becomes a bit heavy-handed at times but the way it is mixed with the dialogue and detailed sound effects of analogue gear really makes you pay attention to the sound of it all on top of the camera work.
With that said, the style very much overpowers ''Broadcast's'' substance as it really struggles to draw you in properly even at the start. That's also not a good sign for something that wants to have a cult fanbase, things just linger around not to reveal things but just for the sake of moodiness. How the story plays out doesn't help either since following James and his later sidekick Alice's (Kelley Mack) is really difficult constantly, all which is explained by the boring ending - the movie feels like an idea that was never finished into a full-blown script. Much of the resolution depends on a character called Phreaker but the actor behind him, Chris Sullivan, steps into the picture from a completely different place, highlighting the lack of creative angle.
Smileys: Cinematography, sound mixing
Frowneys: Atmosphere, story, Chris Sullivan