Wednesday, February 23, 2022

A Banquet - Movie Review

The Movie: A Banquet

The Director: Ruth Paxton

The Cast: Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes, Lindsay Duncan

The Story: Widowed mother Holly is radically tested when her teenage daughter Betsey experiences a profound enlightenment and insists that her body is no longer her own, but in service to a higher power.

The Review:
After a series of short films, director Ruth Paxton makes a strong statement with her debut feature film with a very unique take on the classic possession story. The movie starts off with a pretty shocking scene that does a good job of informing what is about to unfold and prepares the audience for what could be a pretty brutal ride. Paxton's story centers on a single parent family and the relationships between a widowed mother and her two daughters which for me was one of the biggest strengths of the movie.

The three characters are brought to life by Sienna Guillory who plays the mom along with Jessica Alexander and Ruby Stokes who play the older and younger sisters respectively. Guillory is given some pretty intense material to work with and delivers a strong performance and one that ties everything else together so job well done. Jessica Alexander is also given a very difficult task as her character Betsey gets to experience all the fun of going through a possession so you know she's in for some craziness and wow does she make the most of every single moment.

Most of what makes this movie as entertaining as it is is Alexander's performance as she brings the young woman to life in a very sweet and caring way and then goes full demon during the more intense possession scenes. That contrast really emphasizes the tragedy of her circumstance and provides a lot of tension between her and her family members. I think these dynamics were done really well and this is definitely a strength of Paxton's storytelling ability.

Outside of that, I ended up being very confused by where the third act ends up going and for me it ended up being a bit disappointing. There was such an intense and truly scary buildup, I don't think where it lands justifies or pays it off in a way that I was hoping for. Honestly, I'm not sure what I was hoping for but this wasn't it. Obviously I can't explain in detail because spoilers, I will just say that even with this in play, I feel like the movie is definitely worth watching as all the positives outweighed the letdown at the end.

The Verdict:
A Banquet is a strong, female centered debut horror movie for Ruth Paxton that shows she will be a force to be reckoned with and I am hoping to see more from her within the genre. Strong performances from the entire cast anchor an uneven story that didn't quite land for me but should not be overlooked.

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