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Thursday, June 2, 2022

Review: A Banquet


Director: Ruth Paxton

Screenplay: Justin Bull

Year: 2022

Mental health conditions and the subject of possessions have gone hand in hand for a long time, both in horror movies and in the history of humankind. In the absence of knowledge, accurate diagnosis, and superstition, many symptoms of mental health conditions can be misinterpreted as the actions of a malignant entity. This dichotomy has been the basis for many supernatural horror movies and is the basis for the plot of "A Banquet."

After her father's suicide, Betsey and her family try to overcome his departure's emotional and financial burden. During a party with friends, Betsey has a supernatural encounter, which leads her to think that a higher power has chosen her, and Betsey develops a strong apathy for food, and her personality changes completely. Her mother, Holly, looks for a way to help her daughter, not knowing if everything is the product of a psychological illness or if it is something supernatural.

In the opening bars of “A Banquet,” director Ruth Paxton and screenwriter Justin Bull (“Merge”) have a clear idea of ​​what they want their story to be. The film begins with a dark tone that keeps the viewer intrigued by its development. As the plot unfolds, we get to know Betsey and her family, and we delve into the difficulties they experience after the death of their father and how each one seeks a way to adjust to their new reality. So far, both the director and screenwriter seem very sure of what they want to present and the direction they want to take the plot.

Then it's time to make a decision, and all confidence placed in the plot's direction goes overboard. Instead of taking one path or the other, they decide to go to the side of the ambiguous and leave in the hands of the viewer a decision that should have been firmly contemplated in the script. Consequently, all the work that goes into creating the atmosphere and developing the characters is for nothing.

Beyond not taking advantage of the work that had already been achieved, they also throw in the towel on the aspect of horror, which is the genre in which this film is promoted. When you expect the horror elements played with during development to make their unfolding in the third act, the reality falls far short of the expectation. An ending that promised to be pure pyrotechnics ends up being disappointing and frustrating as if the gunpowder had gotten wet. 

“A Banquet” has everything it needs to be a great movie, except deciding how to direct its story's outcome. The cast does a good job and the first hour of the film creates a tense atmosphere accompanied by an intriguing plot, but once the third act arrives, all that work is for nothing. Instead of the end of the banquet that was offered to us, we were left with a few disappointing crumbs of what could have been.

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