Producers: James V. Bulian, Miles Doleac, Lindsay Anne Williams and Wesley O’Mary Director: Miles Doleac Screenplay: Michael Donovan Horn and Miles Doleac Cast: Bill Sage, Miles Doleac, Alli Hart, Lindsay Anne Williams, Sawandi Wilson, Mike Mayhall, Kamille McCuin, Sherri Eakin, Rachel Ryals, Jeremy London, Ritchie Montgomery, Joseph VanZandt and Judyth Daley Distributor: Uncork’d Entertainment
Unsuspecting jerks are lured to a final, fatal meal in Miles Doleac’s dreary hodgepodge of horror-movie clichés, played at a ponderous pace that accentuates the overripe dialogue and ludicrously theatrical performances. “The Dinner Party” is both unpalatable and indigestible.
As the picture opens, Jeff and Haley (Mike Mayhall and Alli Hart) arrive at a mansion, wine I n hand, for the titular bash. He’s a playwright who hopes to get funding for his work from the wealthy hosts.
They’re met at the door by Sebastian (Sawandi Wilson), a menacingly mincing type who invites them in only after a scare that he insists was a joke. Then he deposits them alone in a room; only later will they meet their host Carmine (Bill Sage), a doctor who specializes in preparing exotic dishes for the menu.
Among the other guests for the affair are Vincent (Doleac), a snobbish type with a snooty accent; Agatha (Kamille McCuin), a sultry writer; and Sadie (Lindsay Anne Williams), who has a yen for the supernatural and will do a Tarot card reading for the group.
The evening degenerates as quickly as the movie itself. There’s lots of stilted, showy, pseudo-sophisticated dialogue, much of it about opera (a long disquisition on the plot of “Tosca,” for example), and a heart-on-sleeve revelation by Haley about her childhood (unhappy, of course, as we see in some gauzily artsy flashbacks in which Jeremy London—barely glimpsed, the actor will be happy to know—plays her stepfather), which embarrasses Jeff to no end.
But all the falderal is just tiresome prologue to the meat of this “Dinner,” which involves such ingredients as Satanic rituals, human sacrifice and cannibalism. You might remember that one of the games in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” was “Get the Guests.” That’s being played here, too, but a bit more literally. And drenched over the whole thing is the sauce of class conflict, as the affluent conspire to use those less well-off to their own advantage—a theme that often appears in horror flicks, from Brian Yuzna’s “Society” to such recent entries as “The Purge” and “The Hunt.”
Not to worry, however, there is an obligatory last girl standing, though to remain upright she will have to slice and dice her way through most of the party-givers. There are a couple of twists toward the close—one involving an outsider and another one of the party guests who is not quite what she seems—but even the sequences of mayhem and slaughter have a tepid feel to them.
Under Doleac’s ponderous direction—the leaden pacing probably dictated by his love of the overripe dialogue he’s written—the cast overdoes things mercilessly; no need to single any one of them out for special opprobrium, though Doleac would be wise to avoid being in his own films in the future. The technical credits in the Mississippi-shot picture are okay: cinematographer Michael Williams captures every garish detail of Julie Toche’s production design and Lindsay Anne Williams’ costumes. One wishes, though, that editor Keith J. Hollingsworth had been more active with the scissors, though Doleac bears most of the blame for the turgid pacing.
Cross “The Dinner Party” off your menu.