Lured to a dinner party under the prelude of getting investors for a Broadway play, Haley (Allie Hart) and Jeffery (Mike Mayhall) are subjected to a tension-filled evening that escalates into horrors and violence. Miles Doleac builds upon grindhouse staples as occultic rituals, and opera homages fill this Eli Roth-esque film. The Dinner Party balances tropes and subverting expectations in a film that is not for the weak of heart or stomach.
Opening with Haley and Jefferies’ arrival, The Dinner Party establishes the characters and their relationships early in the film: Sabastian (Sawandi Wilson), a charming and eerie host, Carmine (Bill Sage) a southern gentleman and with a passion for culinary arts, Agatha (Kamille McCuin) an outspoken novelist, Vincent (Miles Doleac) a rough Englishmen, and Sadie (Lindsay Anne Williams) a mysterious Tarot card reader. As the evening progresses, the discussion of opera foreshadows the events that await Haley and Jeffery, triggering memories of Haley’s tragic and tormented past.
At dinner’s end, Haley is drugged and taken to the rooms of each party guest as they inflict their own unique brand of torture on Haley’s psyche, each triggering more of Haley’s memories. Through rituals and an unlikely ally, Haley begins to regain her strength, leading to a terrorizing conclusion after the second act.
“…taken to the rooms of each party guest as they inflict their own unique brand of torture on Haley’s psyche…”
Doleac uses opera throughout the film not only to foreshadow events of the film but to unveil the motivations of each torturer. During the initial party, guests discuss their favorite operas and tell Haley the horrific themes brought about in each tale of sorrow and murder. These discussions are highlighted with engaging performances by Wilson and Sage. Wilson brings charisma to Sabastian that both puts the viewer on edge and draws them in with every passionate monologue on opera. Sage brings a dark yet understanding performance to Carmine that makes his story of Bluebeard’s Castle all the more chilling.
I found this film to be a gruesome showing of classic and modern horror themes. Fans of Audition and some of Takashi Miike’s lighter horror movies will most likely enjoy this film. The performances completely sell the terror on-screen, and Doleac bridges high culture and horror in ways that would make Hannibal Lecture proud. Despite being slow at times and having moments where characters’ motivations can be unclear, The Dinner Party still delivers a solid horror film that had me watching parts through slightly covered eyes.
"…a gruesome showing of classic and modern horror themes."