The Dinner Party
Directed by: Miles Doleac
Run time: 116 minutes
The Lowdown: It’s pretty crazy to think that almost a year ago to the date, I wrote a review ripping apart writer-director Miles Doleac’s Hallowed Ground.
Lo and behold, here I stand today giving the highest of praise to Doleac’s latest offering, the bloody fantastic tale of immortal cannibals called The Dinner Party.
Much like witches of late, cannibals have been appearing more and more frequently in mainstream horror, and I’m one hundred percent okay with that.
Now, I will admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of Ravenous, the grisly 1999 period horror flick that a film historian could argue was way ahead of its time, but I can point to four genre films in the past decade that expertly explored the humanity and insatiable hunger of people who crave human flesh. There’s the 2010 Mexican original and 2013 U.S. remake of We Are What We Are; Bone Tomahawk, the explosive 2015 debut of writer-director S. Craig Zahler; and, my personal favorite, 2016’s French coming-of-age terror tale Raw.
Doleac treats The Dinner Party like his very own progressive four-course meal, and the results are delicious.
He takes time to introduce his main characters.
The hosts of the titular gathering are a strong, formidable lot, including Vincent (Doelac, pulling triple duty), Sebastian (Sawandi Wilson), Agatha (Kamille McCuin), culinary wizard Carmine (Bill Sage) and the bewitching Sadie (Lindsay Anne Williams), who is much more than she appears.
And then there’s the two naïve guests, aspiring playwright and overbearing husband Jeff (Mike Mayhall) and his powder-keg-in-waiting bride Haley (Alli Hart), whose personal backstory is pitch black and steeped in violence.
Carmine explains that these dinner parties are held twice a year, and they serve a very important purpose, although he’s vague on the details.
But during a pre-meal exchange of tarot cards, Haley suddenly confides in the group that her mother killed her stepfather after good old stepdad raped Haley and put her in the hospital.
Barely a gasp is heard around the table, and Carmine responds by sharing his own story of how his parents made him a cannibal.
Naturally, Jeff and Haley don’t take him seriously, but Jeff does take the opportunity to whisk Haley away in private to berate her for ruining his chance to secure funding and support the play he’s writing.
It’s the last such display of toxic masculinity that Haley will ever have to endure. Within minutes of returning back to the table to finally be served the evening meal, Jeff is dead and Haley is suddenly the focal thrust of the night’s true festivities.
I know it always reads like a cop-out when a movie critic declines to say more about a film for fear of ruining the surprise, but The Dinner Party’s delectable secrets really are best saved to be devoured and savored upon viewing.
Suffice to say, what I’ve described above is literally just the first hour of this near two-hour bloodbath, and Doleac does a lot with the second half of his film. He’s able to introduce a host of fresh and unexpected ideas, including pagan blood rituals, immortality and original sin without losing control of his narrative.
After several months of anxiety about the current pandemic, I had started to believe that maybe movies had lost their ability to transport and distract me with so many real-life horrors all around, but I’m happy to report that The Dinner Party is a perfect RSVP event not to be missed.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Considerable.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Immortal cannibals. I didn’t even know that was a thing.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
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