The Dinner Party (2020) Review by Hayley Alice Roberts
A prospective playwright and his reluctant wife attend a lavish dinner party hosted by wealthy, cultural elites in the hopes that they will fund his play all the way to the bright lights of Broadway. This transpires into an empty promise as these dinner hosts have something far more sinister to serve up for the couple descending into a night of chaos and violence in a typical, formulaic fight for survival plot.
The Dinner Party is a generic, run of the mill horror movie containing elements of torture, satanic rituals and nonsensical character motivations, resulting in a long, drawn out empty film that doesn’t bring anything new or inspired to the table. It’s nothing genre fans haven’t seen before, lacking in depth, while remaining unengaging throughout its elongated run time just shy of two hours.
The film lacks direction and spends a considerable amount of time focusing on laughably ostentatious characters engaging in pointless dialogue and general weirdness, prolonging the ever-predictable plot. The whole piece feels thrown together with little care for character development and features clumsy depictions of mental health tipping over on to the insulting side. It’s ill-thought through, the acting is eye-rollingly hammy and it culminates in an expected ending, diminishing any element of surprise that it could have built on. When a lead character begins half-heartedly yelling, “you’re f***ing crazy” when the penny has dropped that she’s dealing with a bunch of kooky, psychopaths, it is evident that we’re in yawn-inducing, formulaic horror territory.
The problematic depictions of mental health in this film is clearly devised as a plot device so poorly written and executed that comes across as insensitive. The film has the audacity to portray an LGBT character in a negative light, suggesting that because they are a lesbian it therefore makes them depraved. This is an unwelcome portrayal, this is 2020 and it’s about time that film studios took this into consideration when allowing lazy, uneducated assumptions of gender and sexuality into their films. Horror has come a long way in recent years, using its platform wisely to challenge age-old stereotypes, Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) being the trailblazing example, yet there are still cheaply made, rushed out, straight to VOD offerings that are holding the progression back. For the record, I’m not suggesting that this film was made with mean-spirited or bigoted intent, but these ignorant, out of context depictions in horror movies need to stop as it poses the question, who is the target audience that this movie was created for?
The Dinner Party has high quality production values but leaves a lot to be desired in its content. For me, it was arduous viewing that left me cold.
Themes of cult mentality is utterly fascinating, with horror being an interesting platform to explore it through, unfortunately, The Dinner Party is not worth the sacrifice. For films that incorporate similar themes and execute them brilliantly, seek out Karyn Kusama’s, The Invitation (2015) and more recently, Ready or Not (2019) starring the fantastic, Samantha Weaving.
The Dinner Party eats its bloodthirsty way onto VOD including Amazon, iTunes and Google Play from Tuesday the 9th June 2020.