Getting its UK premiere at Frightfest 2022, Family Dinner is an Austrian psychological horror/thriller written and directed by Peter Hengl. It stars Pia Hierzegger, Michael Pink, Nina Katlein and Alexander Sladek.
Teenager Simi (Nina Katlein) is very self-conscious of her weight and has gone to stay with her Aunt Claudia (Pia Hierzegger) over the Easter holidays in the hope of getting her help to lose weight. You see Claudia is a famous writer and nutritionist, but she doesn’t just help anyone. So, when she realises that Simi wants her help, she is initially against the idea but eventually agrees to help provided the teenager does everything she asks. No exceptions, failure to follow Claudia’s rules will result in her expulsion from the programme Claudia has set for her.
That doesn’t worry Simi though as she is determined to see this through, even if it means literally starving herself until the Easter Sunday feast.
Unfortunately, Claudia and her husband, Stefan (Michael Pink) live on an isolated farm so there’s not much to distract Simi from thinking about food. Not only that, Claudia’s teenage son, Filipp (Alexander Sladek) hates Simi and Claudia won’t hear a bad word said against him as she dotes on him to an alarming degree.
Simi is determined though and puts up with Filipp’s unnatural dislike of her. Up until he reveals to her that he is trying to run away as he suspects his mother is planning to hurt him. Something that Simi initially dismisses but slowly starts to wonder what her Aunt’s intentions are for both Filipp and herself.
The Easter feast is going to be one to remember.
Family Dinner is a compelling watch thanks, in part, to a fantastic set of characters played wonderfully by a strong cast. There’s a bit of a ‘coming of age’ story being told here in regards to Simi. Where she deals with intense horror, learns to fight for herself and to love who she is. Lessons that are well told and easy to get behind. Few won’t be cheering Simi on come the end of the movie.
Another reason why it is so compelling to watch is how the story plays out. It’s a slow-burn of a horror, ramping up the tension and mystery, while also forcing viewers to question the truth. Surely what you suspect can’t be what is actually going on?
Then there is the stark, empty and cold house that feels more like a prison. Set on a remote piece of farmland where there’s nothing for miles and the only light comes from the moon and the stars. Elements that help enhance the dour and dark tone that film has running all the way through it.
Is it perfect? No, of course not. There’s a sense of promised horror that never really comes to fruition. Family Dinner could have been a bit braver and tougher when it came to Simi’s dietary experience. Yet, even this is forgivable when you take into account the fact that Claudia and Stefan care for her.
A modern slow-burn, tension-heavy horror that deals with the pressures teenagers feel to perfect their body. Family Dinner is well worth checking out.
Family Dinner (2022)
The Final Score - 7.5/10