Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Scott Murden
Starring Lara Cox, Ben Seton, Kai Harris, Sam Lyndon
Distributed by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment
The premise of Scott Murden’s Aussie thriller The Dinner Party is quite an intriguing one: A young woman by the name of Angela (Lara Cox) decides that she wants to die, and ropes a friend into helping her arrange what should be a perfect dinner party evening that she can then cap off with self-destruction. The possible paths that the story could take (despite apparently being based on true events) are almost limitless, and should Angela’s intentions be ultimately targeted at her guests, the promise of nail-biting tension becomes very seductive indeed.
It’s a pity, then, that the brief synopsis provided on the DVD case is infinitely better than the film itself.
From the beginning, the story is interspersed with various characters being interviewed by the police in the aftermath of Angela’s plan, so we all know exactly who is going to bite the dust. Strike one: The complete removal of any kind of surprise or tension. Fifteen minutes in, you’ll know exactly where the The Dinner Party is headed.
Perhaps given some good performances and an effective, focused script, this shouldn’t be a problem. Strike two: Murden’s direction is so plodding and aimless that every single scene feels like a lifetime. Pacing is non-existent, so much so that you’d think Angela has decided to see if she can kill herself (or her guests) through sheer boredom rather than anything else. The film has a horrendous made-for-television look about it which certainly isn’t aided by Murden’s lacklustre compositions. Visuals look routinely either dank and murky or poorly lit and waxy, with portions of dialogue seeming to have been taken in-camera. The score, which bounds between laughable and snooze-inducing, doesn’t help matters.
Performances just barely approach what could be referred to as a professional standard (however Ben Seton does stand out as Angela’s boyfriend, Joel), though not much more could be expected with a screenplay which has a propensity to be this nonsensical. Characters routinely act like complete and utter idiots, especially in the latter stages as a specific individual is dying under their noses and they’re more than aware that said individual has been drugged! It appears as though we’re supposed to see Angela as some kind of tragic individual, but she’s nothing more than a whining, self-absorbed, idiot piece of human detritus. While the events that take place are, on a surface level, certainly tragic, Murden needs to learn that there’s more to emotionally engaging your audience than throwing in a load of redundant flashbacks to “happier times”. He does get it right a couple of times during the final moments, but the complete lack of any closeness to those involved ultimately robs the audience of any real payoff.
Strike three: An extra strike for throwing away such a promising premise. The Dinner Party is a vacant shell of a film – a rambling, pointless, mind-numbing exercise in sheer boredom; it could perhaps work quite well as a cure for insomnia. Don’t be fooled by the rather cool cover art – there’s next to nothing in the way of excitement, tension, thrills or violence; just an endless seepage of sheer emptiness.
In terms of extras, we get a trailer and commentary with director Murden and Producer Brendan Sloane. It’s a listenable enough track, but nothing could make it worth going through the flick itself another time – even if they do appear to think they accomplished much more with the film than they truly did.
0 out of 5
1 out of 5
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