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First Look Review - THE DINNER PARTY

the dinner party review
A dinner party takes a dark and bloody turn.

Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Miles Doleac

Starring: Bill Sage, Jeremy London, Lindsay Anne Williams, Mike Mayhall, Alli Hart, Miles Doleac, Ritchie Montgomery

the dinner party poster


A couple arrives at a sprawling mansion on a dark and stormy night; she (Hayley – Alli Hart) looks almost pubescent accompanied by a man in his obvious mid thirties (Jeffrey – Mike Mayhall). He’s hoping to win the approval, both creative and financial, for his as-yet-unproduced play, and it's clear he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

The paedophilic vibe continues as he sits her down to lecture her about not using her phone during dinner, as well as the frequent “good girl”s he utters when she’s obedient.

The colossal Douchebag continues to be problematic with his attitudes and behaviours towards his wife, and of course the script ensures that she’s the kind of character who insists on discussing their relationship right before a social gathering; not particularly realistic there but I guess it’s a way to get some exposition across. It seems she has some skeletons in the closet, and some mental health issues to boot. The hosts of the party are Carmine and Sebastian (Bill Sage and Sawandi Wilson, respectively) and they are clearly nasty tricksters – the kind to make you jump and take great pleasure in your discomfort.

the dinner party review

While awaiting the party’s commencement, our couple meet some sort of ‘sprite’-dressed woman called Sadie (Lindsay Anne Williams), who presents Hayley with a glass of wine that Jeff takes from her, and a very strange man called Vincent (writer/director Miles Doleac), whom we had previously seen cutting himself in the bathroom.

Rounding out the dinner table is well-respected author Agatha (Kamille McCuin), who first appears to Hayley naked and seductive, but is unable to entice the troubled ingénue to similarly disrobe.

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Before dinner there’s some pre dining card games to determine who picks the music to accompany their meal.

Once the party gets going there’s a lack of food but there’s a feast of opera discussion, which is as tedious as it sounds.

Hayley suffers an extra special glimpse into her horrifically dysfunctional and violent childhood before the film kicks into its next phase and the gore gets underway.

the dinner party review

This ‘second wind’ is not bad until the final overlong denouement, which is completely unnecessary and stops the action dead; and though I appreciate the sentiment, I wish it had happened more dynamically.

As written and directed by Doleac, it’s all very talky and honestly, didn’t really hold my attention. When the action returned to the actual dinner table in the last 20 minutes or so, events shook me awake and brought me back to the story, but before that I was fading.

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The length is also a major detraction. There is absolutely no need for this film to be two hours long, particularly when the time is spent in the company of repellent people who fail to expand on the plot machinations in any meaningful way.

I did enjoy the sprawling mansion that never felt like a set, some of the cinematography was truly lush, and the costume design by Lindsay Anne Williams was well personalised and eye-catching.

The horror aspect is rather perfunctory and while there’s lots of blood splashed around, it’s strangely disconnected from reality.

the dinner party review

I like the idea of something so gory and base being set within a cultured and mannered society of wealthy Machiavellian types; but it’s something that we have seen before from Society to The Last Supper - the condescending hosts that indulge in violence and learn a valuable lesson is a trope that remains unchallenged here.

Glimmers of intrigue shine though and the violence is brutal and realistic, but the sound quality is inconsistent and sometimes it sounds echoey, as though we are watching a play. It's drawn out to the point of discomfort and I must admit that twice I actually nodded off and had to rewind, which unfortunately made it seem even longer.

As the final girl, Hart absolutely carries this entire movie and gives it her all, but I’m afraid that when it comes to parties, this one is a bit of a pooper.

The Dinner Party is on US DVD/VOD now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




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