New to Blu: The Dinner Party (2020) - Reviewed

Written and directed by Miles Doleac, The Dinner Party is a horror film for discerning palates. Doleac’s films are the Iron Maiden of horror indies – while feeding your perverse tastes, he slips in a smorgasbord of educational morsels that actually teaches you stuff while you scream and pant. Both Doleac and his wife, actress Lindsay Anne Williams, are academics in an array of historical studies, but don’t worry, their subterfuge is delightfully twisted as they join the rather eccentric ensemble of cast members.

Miles Doleac is known for previous writing/ directing feats like Hallowed Ground (2019) as well as a list of acting accomplishments including TV series such as NCIS and Salem. The Dinner Party is a step up from Hallowed Ground, which I enjoyed as well, but addresses a completely different topic.

It is rare these days to find horror films that actually present something unique, but when you find something different and it impresses some culture on you, it makes for a well-rounded promise of abundance. Make no mistake, The Dinner Party is not subtle once you get through the slow burning, almost tedious, character establishment of the first part of the film. For the first fraction of the film, Doleac’s dialogue almost makes Tarantino’s drawn out banter feel like a haiku, but do stick with it, trust me.

The Dinner Party invites us to, well, dinner, with a group of contemporary wealthy elitist snobs. They each have their own idiosyncrasies that will have you wincing in no time. The film concerns a budding playwright (Mike Mayhall) who is invited to dinner by some prospective benefactors he hopes to impress so that they would finance his play on Broadway. He brings his timid young wife, Haley, fresh out of the madhouse (term intended). It does not take long before Haley (Alli Hart) feels the tension of not only the class difference, but the cruel bite of conduct that only the untouchable elite can afford.

Sophisticated obscenity and the warm color grading of The Dinner Party gives the film a surreal atmosphere akin to films like Gothic (1986). Tension mates with revulsion as the climax steadily creeps up on you and when the bone breaks, the torment is exquisite and paced. I have always preferred my education with a pinch of perversion, so I thoroughly enjoyed the taboos served on a tray of allegory. Doleac pulls his best Statham impression, bar the physical, while Sadie (Williams) weaves a web of witchy mystery that reminds us all of those annoying Wiccan chicks we all know…but with a catch.

Technically, the film is above grade for an indie. Set design and costume design is on par with the characters and the music assures the snobbery is in harmony with the setting. Everything about The Dinner Party is believable and well executed without needing any gratuitous cheap thrills and jump scares. It is not a scary film, but it is a proper balanced meal of gore and tension that boils to a bloody opus of maniacal mythos.

--Tasha Danzig