Greetings again from the darkness. Dinner parties are ripe for generating just about any kind of conflict between characters … loud and rude, or subtle and passive-aggressive. Many filmmakers have used the setting to their advantage, and from that we’ve heard some sharp dialogue and seen some tremendous acting performances. And yes, we’ve suffered through the other end of that spectrum as well. The first feature film from writer-director Charles Dorfman (producer on THE LOST DAUGHTER, 2021) comes from a story by Statten Roeg, and it awkwardly morphs into a blend of dinner party and home invasion.
The morning sun shining through the window causes a couple to slowly awaken. Eva (Catalina Sandino Moreno, MARIA FULL OF GRACE, 2004) and Adam (Iwan Rheon, “Game of Thrones”) are in the stunning home on which they expect to finalize the purchase this same evening when the real estate developer (and friend) and his girlfriend arrive for dinner. Our first exposure to Lucas (Tom Cullen) is an infomercial where he’s ‘selling’ the beauty, serenity, and history of the property. It’s located near the Gaeta (Gateway) Stone, which holds historical (and possibly mystical) relevance. Through the advertisement, we immediately recognize that Lucas is not exceptionally trustworthy, and may even be a bit of a scammer. We soon enough have clarity on Lucas’ carefully constructed online image contrasted with reality.
The dinner party is not just to finalize the purchase of the home, but also to celebrate Adam’s birthday. Eva is a renowned artist who has been crafting a sculpture for the property – it’s a replica of the nearby Gaeta Stone. Adam is a director who struggles not just with his career, but also with the truth. Dinner begins okay as Lucas and his girlfriend, Chloe (Ines Spiridonov) arrive. Wine is consumed and some friendly needling occurs. After a few minutes, we realize these are self-centered and entitled folks who can’t even be honest with each other. When the confessions begin to roll, things get ugly … but then the home invasion hits, and with it, an abrupt tonal shift.
Some similarities exist between Mr. Dorfman’s film and THE FEAST, with a touch of Kubrick’s classic A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, but unfortunately, it never reaches the level of either. While we learn the motivation for the home invasion, it comes at a time when we’ve already given up caring about any of the four main characters. It just doesn’t matter other than seeing what might trigger someone to live up to the film’s title – as if they hadn’t already done so. Composer Marc Canham teases us with the score and purposefully overuses dramatic musical booms. For a thriller to work best, the audience must have someone or something to root for – a not so minor detail missing here. But, oh my, what a cool house!
In theaters and On Demand beginning April 1, 2022