"Feast" comes from executive producers Wes Craven, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Chris Moore, whom you may know as some of the guiding forces behind TV's "Project Greenlight." You may also have seen the television documentary on the making of this film, the 2005 gore-fest, or gore-feast, that premiered in theaters and then on DVD just weeks apart. Add in the fact that the DVD is an unrated cut, if you'll excuse the expression, and that it was one of the final productions the Weinstein brothers made for Dimension Films before they left to form their own company, and you get more publicity surrounding the film than the film probably deserves.
You may also remember "From Dusk Till Dawn," the half-comedy, half-horror movie from a few years back. Same thing here. The trouble is that most of the humor in "Feast" comes in the first ten minutes or so, and it's sporadic from then on. The movie does get off to a clever start, however, with a series of introductions to the major characters that clearly establish the film's tongue-in-cheek attitude toward fright flicks. The movie, you see, is about a group of people trapped in a bar in the middle of the desert (more shades of "From Dusk Till Dawn"), surrounded by a family of monsters wanting nothing more than to eat them all alive. Never mind where the monsters came from or why no other humans show up at the bar after the patrons have barricaded themselves in. The film is far too silly to succumb to such minor details.
Anyway, it's the introductions that are pretty slick, so let me quote a few of them. They are the best parts of the picture, and they're over in a flash; I'd hate for you to miss them. In each case, the camera freezes on close-ups of the characters, and captions give us their names, occupations, and life expectancies in the story. There's Boss Man (Duane Whitaker), "mean, stoned, and horny. Life expectancy: Regular or extra crispy?" Harley Mom (Diane Goldner), "robbing bar in ten minutes; life expectancy wild card." Bozo (Balthazar Getty), designated "town jackass; life expectancy, dead by dawn." Hot Wheels (Josh Zuckerman), an invalid, occupation "selling firecrackers to seventh-graders. Life expectancy: They wouldn't kill a cripple, would they?" Beer Guy (Judah Freelander), "part-time host at Red Lobster. Life expectancy: losers and dorks go first...he's both." Honey Pie (Jenny Wade), "actress, singer, dancer, model. Dying to get out of town; may get her wish." Coach (Henry Rollins), "motivational speaker, the poor man's Tony Robbins; stay far, far away." Vet (Anthony Criss), "has never had fun. Life expectancy: Don't ask, don't tell." Edgy Cat (Jason Mewes, the actor's character billed in the caption as Jason Mewes but in the closing credits as "Edgy Cat"), "Occupation: Actor. Life expectancy: Already surpassed expectations."
Whew! But I'm not finished yet. There's Heroine (Navi Rawat), "Occupation: Wear tank top, tote gun, save day." Hero (Eric Dane), "Occupation: Kicking ass. Life expectancy: Pretty f... good." Tuffy (Krista Allen), "career waitress, single mom, expects nothing from life." Cody (Tyler Patrick Jones), the kid, a "tax break; can fit into tight spaces. Life expectancy: Wonderful full life." Grandma (Eileen Ryan), "may already be dead." And, finally, there is the bartender, played by first-time director John Gulager's father, longtime TV star Clu Gulager, "horrifying death in 70 minutes."
Well, you can see from these intros that the filmmakers were not exactly taking any of this seriously, and, what's more, they do a good job of setting stereotypes on their ear. Yet at the same time it isn't another "Scary Movie" parody because the blood and guts are quite intense, too. The problem is that there isn't enough whimsy ("Yeah," says Boss Man looking at the severed head of one of the creatures, "that's one for the wall"), and there aren't enough genuine scares to qualify the film as either a comedy or a horror film. It's stuck in kind of a Neverland, being too frivolous to take seriously and too gory to take humorously.
The movie is clearly a low-budget affair, with all of the story line taking place inside the bar. One set serves all. The monsters look good, though, what little you can see of them, and the filmmakers keep the special effects to a minimum, mainly using lots of red ketchup, the film clearly having been done on the cheap. Once the action starts, the blood, gore, and body parts fly in all directions. Blood even squirts on the camera lens, another reminder that this is a reflexive parody, after all.
Typical of a modern horror film, the noise level is high, the camera movements are jerky, the close-ups are many, and the editing is fast and furious, making for more of an energetic romp than a terrifying adventure. Often, the filmmaking is so frenetic, it's hard to tell what's happening.
Tension and suspense are at a loss here, too, the film given over mainly to fast movement and things popping out of nowhere for cheap surprises. Presumably, the unrated edition contains more sheer grossness than the theatrical version, I don't know. With screeching music, screaming actors, and a camera on uppers, "Feast" is more exhausting than frightening or funny, and it is more likely to induce earache than laughs or shivers. Oh, and it's one of those "ain't over till it's over" affairs, so wait for it.
The video engineers preserve most of the film's 2.40:1 theatrical ratio in a high-bit-rate, anamorphic transfer that measures about 2.20:1 across my screen. Still, the picture quality itself is fairly soft, gritty, and grainy. Everything takes place, after all, inside a dark, smoky barroom, so even with good black levels, the colors and definition tend to suffer a bit.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is very dynamic in a raucous, pop-music sort of way. It's very loud, a touch bright, and a little edgy, too. There is a wide and satisfying stereo spread, though, with an abundance of surround activity, especially in terms of musical ambience at first and then with the usual sounds of violence and things going bump in the night as the plot proceeds.
The extras may be more worthwhile than the feature film. First, there's an audio commentary by the filmmakers: director Gulager, producers Mike Leahy and Joel Soisson, writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, and creature and makeup effects designer Garry Tunnicliffe. They seem to be having a good time. Second, there are five deleted scenes totaling about seven minutes, one of them an alternate ending. Third, there's an eleven-minute featurette, "Horror Under the Spotlight: The Making of Feast." Gulager says that the first two Project Greenlight productions were coming-of-age films, so in the third one "anyone who even looked like they were coming of age we ate." Fourth, there's another featurette, this one about nine minutes, "The Blood and Guts of Gary Tunnelcliffe." And fifth, there is a thirty-second "Feast" soundtrack promotion with the music of Vincent Black Shadow, Narwhal, The Penfifteen Club, and Coleman.
The extra materials conclude with theatrical trailers at start-up only for "Killshot," "Pulse," "Clerks II," "Scary Movie 4," and "Wolf Creek"; sixteen scene selections but no chapter insert; English as the only spoken language; and Spanish subtitles, with English captions for the hearing impaired.
What starts out promisingly turns into standard horror-flick mayhem. "Feast" may be a step above the usual fare in this genre, but because it changes tone so repeatedly, it's ultimately disappointing. There is really little in the way of thrills or excitement in the movie, and the humor diminishes after the character introductions.