Resident Evil star Sienna Guillory is a worried mother in clip from TIFF horror movie A Banquet
In the British horror movie A Banquet, Sienna Guillory (the Resident Evil franchise) plays a woman named Holly, who is still grieving the recent death of her husband when her teenage daughter Betsey (Jessica Alexander) starts to behave in a worryingly strange fashion.
"At the core, it's about a family dealing with grief," says first-time filmmaker Ruth Paxton. "It is a horror film, but it's not full of jump scares and gore. I wanted the film to be a really uncomfortable experience and for the horror to be more insidious than visual. I didn't want the audience to ever feel safe in the same way you never feel safe when you're watching The Shining. That was a big inspiration for me."
A Banquet costars Ruby Stokes and Lindsay Duncan and was written by Justin Bull.
"I wasn't entirely sure whether the first film I made should be something that I haven't written myself," says Paxton. "But it was like I'd written it. It was so in tuned with themes that I'm preoccupied with in my own writing. It was the kind of brand of horror I like, which is about things we can't see and what goes on in our heads. I'm someone with a mood disorder, so my scariest experiences are the ones that have come from my own head."
A Banquet has similarities to a pair of other recent horror tales, Rose Glass' Saint Maud and Prano Bailey-Bond's Censor, with all three movies directed by British filmmakers and all three essentially dealing with the mental turmoils of female characters. Does Paxton think that is a coincidence or is there something else going on?
"I don't know the answer, but I do wonder if it's not coincidental," says Paxton. "I know Prano. I don't know Rose very well, but I've seen her movie and I loved it. I wonder if it's about a better understanding of mental ill-health. Prepping for the film, I read up a little bit about what somebody was calling 'transcendental horror,' the idea that there's a trend where really it's about facing up to the horrors of what it is to be human, rather than monsters, or external forces. I think that may be something that's having a bit of a heyday."
A Banquet will receive its world premiere Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival, with a release set for early 2022. Exclusively watch a scene from A Banquet above and see stills from the film below.
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