Feast (UK - DVD R2)
Leigh Riding looks at the long overdue UK release of this 2005 comic gorefest
A little history lesson for UK readers; Hollywood buddies Ben Affleck and Matt Damon created a reality TV series in which budding writers and directors all compete for their chance to work on a genuine feature in the Hollywood studio system. The show ran for three seasons, with the first two series focusing on arty 'coming-of-age' dramas, which both failed miserably at the box office. For the third series, Affleck and Damon decided to back a more audience friendly feature, and ended up with the film Feast, a troubled production if there ever was one. Of course, as the UK never ran the series, we get to view the film through a different prism from our American friends, as a standalone film. The plot is pure genre; people trapped in a bar, beasties, a gallon of blood and pus, and a boy in a wheelchair. Much mayhem ensues.
When it comes to horror, I'm a meat and potatoes kinda guy. I'm not interested in elaborate death traps, American remakes of Japanese ghost stories that constantly fail to realise the plot is specific to another culture, so leave the point of the movie out, and I'm certainly not a fan of movies where killer weeds trap victims by making noises that sound like their mobile cell phones. I want genre staples, dammit! Creature features! Vigilante zombie cops! Slug aliens disguised as Kyle Maclachlan! That's not too much to ask for, is it?
Feast is a throwback to the old 'monster siege' movies, a particular favourite of mine. Although it's been said that this riffs on From Dusk Till Dawn far too much, it's closer in spirit to the underrated Demon Knight. Feast has no delusions of grandeur; there is no hip dialogue or crime elements to make the horror more palatable. This is gore, slime, and unexpected deaths, and is all the better for its back to basics approach.
In the making of feature, Feast's director John Gulager makes a statement that tells you where he's coming from: ‘the first Project Greenlight project was a coming of age film. The second project was a coming of age film. So in Feast, anybody that even looked like they were coming of age—we ate.’ When each character’s introduction is accompanied by a freeze frame and a statistics sheet containing nicknames, occupation, and their character’s life expectancy you know this movie will be a fun ride. The one thing that the film has that makes it that ride is the exuberance and giddy abandon Gulager has brought to the table.
The energy of the film is something to behold. Even with a miniscule budget, Feast has more zip and kinetic pace than any number of Saw sequels. For instance, in the space of a minute heads are bitten off, chests are punched through, faces ripped away, legs severed, and all capped by a midget demon furiously humping a wall mounted moose head. This is one of the more sedate scenes.
The abundance of energy makes up for the fact that while the script is perfectly acceptable genre fodder, the dialogue is either derivative and one note, or exposition without any important information. People don't have conversations in Feast, they quote clichés back and forth. The script did make me laugh like a drain at times; for instance Judah Friedlander's character is slimed about ten minutes into the film, an act that proceeds to make the character literally become a running joke through the whole film, with a payoff that made me shoot tea out of my nose with laughter. Although not given a lot to work with, the actors are all game, despite the fact that Henry Rollins is totally wasted.
Let's be honest, we're not here to laugh, we're here for the monsters, and there's no denying Feast delivers the gore. The monster designs are solid, and the kills are well designed and executed. Even the film's biggest detractors have to admit that this is one bloody movie, and will definitely satisfy the old school gore fans (our very own Gabe Powers would probably nod in approval). For a film with a budget this low, the action sequences and kills are very impressive, and look better than some films with twice the expense.
The low budget is well hidden by the style of the piece, which is quite slick and colourful. The camera never stops moving, and the sheer velocity of the piece reminds me of Braindead era Peter Jackson, married with the hyper real colour scheme of Sam Raimi circa Darkman.
Feast is as derivative as they come, and it's easy to dismiss it as a low budget Dusk Till Dawn rip-off. However, it's miles ahead of true dreck like 7 Mummies, and really holds its own. Films like this aren't meant to change the world. They are designed as prime Saturday night entertainment that makes you alternately laugh and turn green while uttering ‘sweet...’ under your breath as you wait for the pizza to be delivered, and Feast fills that gap better than any horror film since at least Planet Terror.
Bearing in mind that Feast had a very tight budget, it isn't surprising that the transfer here is of variable quality. Grain is often evident in the picture, particularly in special effects sequences and under-cranked shots. Colours in the film are generally of a comic book quality, and are presented fairly well. The schemes are visually strong, but occasional colour bleed tends to catch the eye. Although technical problems arise with the transfer, the viewer isn't taken out of the film too much as a result, and the film still has a look that belies the small production values.
Despite a middling DVD transfer Feast is a visually strong movie, and it is complimented by a textbook horror audio track. The all important surrounds are well utilised, with the constant bangs and scrapes of the beasties attempting to get into the bar even when attacks are not happening, which is actually creepier than the film probably deserves. Bass levels are very strong during the early attack sequences, but when the larger monsters appear later in the movie, the results are window rattling. Gulager gets kudos for realising that one of the strongest elements of a monster movie is sound design, and this impressive track gives the film a kick it might not have had before. I for one would like to hear the Blu-ray version.
Unfortunately, this Optimum disc is stripped of the US version's audio commentary, so any real information on the creation of Feast is left to the main making of featurette, which is at times baffling as on one hand it references the Project Greenlight element of Feast, which very few (if any) people in the UK have seen, and yet skirts over the problems the production had as a result of the Weinstein's involvement in the series, leaving the featurette frustratingly vague. Why sugar-coat the documentary when millions of people saw the production problems on TV?
In contrast, ‘The Blood and Guts of Gary Tuncliffe’ is a great little special effects feature. Although it is fairly short at nine minutes, it gives a great oversight on the film in general, and a nice look at Tuncliffe's roots and early career. It's also great to hear genre veteran (and the director's father) Clu Gulager praising ‘1980s retro instead of CGI’, and you can't help but agree with him.
A small collection of bloopers and extended scenes round out the disc.
There's no looking past the fact that Feast is totally derivative and quite ham fistedly written, but it's also true that it's one of the most fun, sticky, bloody and entertaining horror comedies I've seen in absolutely ages. The news that Gulager has shot Feast 2 and 3 back to back and ready for release this year is surprisingly welcome. It's due in no small amount to the talent of the director that he can take a misshapen and flawed script, a tortuous production and a miniscule budget, and make a film as kinetic and stylish as this. Wait until the weekend, get the boys round (bringing beers of course), take the phone off the hook, phone for a pizza and enjoy. Feast is simply fun; no more, no less.
Review by Leigh Riding
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 22nd September 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dilby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Horror Under the Spotlight: Making Feast, The Blood and Guts of Gary Tuncliffe, Blood on the Cutting Room Floor, A Small Feast of Outtakes
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Gulager
Cast: Balthazar Getty, Henry Rollins, Clu Gulager, Jason Mewes, Eric Dane
Length: 83 minutes
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