Director : John Gulager
Screenplay : Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2006
Stars : Navi Rawat (Heroine), Krista Allen (Tuffy), Balthazar Getty (Bozo), Judah Friedlander (Beer Guy), Jenny Wade (Honey Pie), Duane Whitaker (Boss Man), Josh Zuckerman (Hot Wheels), Eileen Ryan (Grandma), Clu Gulager (Bartender), Anthony “Treach” Criss (Vet), Eric Dane (Hero), Chauntae Davies (Drunk Girl), Diane Goldner (Harley Mama), Somah Haaland (Charlie), Tyler Patrick Jones (Cody), Jason Mewes (Edgy Cat), Henry Rollins (Coach)
You know a horror film is wearing its wink-wink meta-knowingness on its gore-soaked sleeve when it introduces each of its characters/potential victims in a freeze-frame with crucial information that includes a cheeky nickname and their “life expectancy.” Crucially, both pieces of information refer to the disposability of the characters--not only is their importance as human beings reduced to their simple ability to survive the onslaught, but even then they’re not important beyond a quick character type (Boss Man, Bartender, Hero, etc.). So, if anything, you can slap the makers of Feast on the back for honesty.
The finished product of the third and final season of Project Greenlight, the reality show created by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Chris Moore that picked unknown filmmakers and gave them their dream shot, Feast has its moments and is never short on energy, but ultimately it doesn’t even add up to the sum of its grisly parts. There’s not an original bone in the script by first-timers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, who described their story as “The Evil Dead meets Die Hard” without noting the obvious fact that those two movies already share the same fundamental premise.
Dumped into a few theaters with virtually no advertising less than a month before its DVD debut, Feast has the vibe of a straight-to-video effort, albeit with slightly better humor. It gives us a dozen or so characters in a seedy, redneck bar in the middle of No-Name Desert, U.S.A., who find themselves trapped by a prowling family of ravenous humanoids hellbent on human flesh. Who these humanoids are, where they came from, and other usually interesting information is completely dismissed; all that’s important is they’re hungry, they’re determined, and they have enormous mouths filled with frighteningly long, razor-sharp teeth.
The eccentric assortment of would-be victims barricade themselves inside the bar George A. Romero-style and then proceed to bicker amongst themselves even as they’re picked off one by one by the nasties outside. The “life expectancy” assigned to each character at his or her introduction is quickly revealed to be more or less arbitrary, calculated at best by how such characters traditionally fare in genre movies. Of course, part of the fun of knowing horror movies is their willingness to off characters who are typically expected to survive, so it’s best not to assume automatically that the single mom, the single mom’s preteen kid, or the young man in the wheelchair are guaranteed to see the sun rise again.
Feast was directed by John Gulager, son of legendary character actor Clu Gulager, who plays the film’s grumpy bartender (other interesting casting choices include Jason Mewes as an early victim, Henry Rollins cast amusingly against type as a mantra-spouting motivational speaker, and Balthazar Getty as the requisite loud-mouthed jerk who you keep hoping will get eaten just so we don’t have to hear him anymore). John Gulager quickly emerged as the stand-out character in Project Greenlight, as he morphed from unsure and embarrassingly uncommunicative to something resembling an artist.
Little of it shows in the finished product, though, as Feast suffers from spastic camera syndrome, along with a debilitating bout of hyper-editing disorder. Common wisdom suggests that both maladies, which tend to reduce any moment of action into a hyperkinetic blur devoid of anything resembling spatial coherence, were used primarily to cover over the low budget and cheap special effects, but what I could see looked pretty good. Granted, most of the effects amount to little more than geysers of blood and mucous, but the fleeting glimpses we get of the orally fixated humanoid intruders are giddy and effective, making you wish Gulager had slowed things down enough to really savor the ridiculousness of it all.
Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick
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All images copyright ©2006 Dimension Films