‘A Banquet’ Review: An Interesting Concept With An Unappetizing Conclusion

Ruth Paxton’s ‘A Banquet’ Doesn’t Quite Stick the Landing

‘A Banquet’ is the latest horror film from IFC Midnight, written by Justin Bull and directed by Ruth Paxton. The film follows a widowed mother named Holly (Sienna Guillory) who is radically tested when her teenage daughter Betsey (Jessica Alexander) experiences profound enlightenment and insists that her body is no longer her own, but in service to a higher power. Bound to her newly found faith, Betsey refuses to eat but doesn’t lose weight. In an agonizing dilemma, torn between love and fear, Holly is forced to confront the boundaries of her own beliefs.  

Let’s start off with what I really enjoyed about this film. The mother played by Sienna Guillory is the stand-out performance in this movie. She really portrays a grieving mother who is doing all she can to help her possessed-like daughter amazingly. When she broke down I could just feel how much pain she was in. I caught myself sympathizing with her so much and was really rooting for her to save her daughter. Another stand out is her daughter Betsey, played by Jessica Alexander. She was unsettling as well as a sympathetic character.

The directing by Ruth Paxton is also great. She does unsettling shots by having the camera do close ups that gives the audience an unsettling feeling, setting a foreboding atmosphere. Whether it be a focus on the food or a creepy silhouette.  Everything is filmed really well. There were a few standout scenes that made me wince with how haunting it looked. The writing by Justin Bull is great for the most part. The dialogue is all well said and engaging to watch. The family all dealing with their feelings for Betsey now that she is changed also was  well written. The mother, grandma, and little sister had their own ways of handling their grief which was relatable.

This film is definitely a slow burn. Yes the atmosphere is unsettling once the daughter gets changed by a “higher power” but there are a lot of quiet moments.  I do like the ideas they portray in this movie. The daughter not being able to eat anything and the mother in distress thinking  her daughter is anorexic only to find out she’s not losing any weight was captivating to watch.  Her reactions to these unexplainable things happening to her daughter was great. The family all dealing with their feelings for Betsey now that she is changed also was engaging to watch.

The problem is they never really clarify what happened to the daughter in the first place. A red moon appears one night, she goes into the forest hearing voices, and comes out saying she was chosen by a higher power. No explanation or reason. I want to know more about what higher belief has taken her and how. It happens again to another character near the end. Things just happening for no reason that just left me confused. The whole ending was just a mess that left me asking myself; “What is happening?” The movie also ends on an unsatisfying note which is a shame because the themes in the beginning and middle actually held my interest.

So would I recommend this movie?  Maybe to a certain kind of audience. To horror fans? Yes. This movie does explore interesting ideas and it does unsettle the audience which I think horror fans will appreciate.  I can see horror fans enjoying this movie and it’s ideas. Maybe even the weird ending. If you are not a horror fan I don’t think this slow burn horror movie is for you.