Live Feed: Unrated (US - DVD R1)
Gabe second guesses calling himself a horror fan after watching this cash-in...
Five stupid, stereotypical, loud, obnoxious, sex-starved, and drug-addled teens take a vacation in Japan (apparently). After getting wasted in a karaoke bar, the loudest, most obnoxious, stupidest, most sex-starved teen almost gets in a fight with a Yakuza (or Triad, I wasn't really paying attention) crime lord. The idiots are told by a young, and handsome, obviously undercover cop to leave, and do. They decide stopping in an exceedingly seedy porno theater on the way back to the hotel sounds like a good idea. It turns out that it wasn't a good idea afterall, and that the theater is a scam. It's actually a torture stage for sick and twisted Yakuzas (or Triads, whatever). They all die in horrible ways.
I actually liked Eli Roth's Hostel. I didn't love it, but I appreciated what he was trying to do (which was make a Japanese style slow-burn thriller) enough to recommend it to horror fans. The film's first half, where the teens indulge in drugs and sex, plodded, and acted too much like an American Pie sequel, but the flick's seedier second half actually proved that Roth had a few original, or at the very least entertianing, tricks up his bloodied sleeves. Thanks to the name recognition of producer Quentin Tarantino, Hostel actually made a bit of money at the box office, leading DVD studios to latch onto the newly re-discovered touture-chic genre.
Most of these "rip-offs" seem to have little to actually do with Hostel (Spain's H6 especially), but Live Feed is an exception, and is pretty much the exact same film. The hook here is that it's the insanely inept version of Hostel, featuring Japanese locales rather than Eastern European ones, though it's pretty obvious that the movie is actually being filmed in Western Canada. Not content to only rip-off one film, these filmmakers do their best to steal the most rudimentary Yakuza vs. Triad story elements possible. It's like a second generation Takashi Miike rip-off (and his early films weren't very original to begin with).
*Edit: I now know, based on comments in this forum, that this film was in fact written a good while before Roth's film went into production. MTI video is obviously trying to cash in here (especially when one considers the disc's cover art), but Ryan Nicholson is innocent of specifically ripping off Eli Roth. Apologies.
Oh my God, where do I start? Don't see this movie, is that a good place? I've said it many times, as a fan of bad horror films and gore flicks (I just gave Abominable and Galaxy of Terror each a 6/10, for God's sake), there is a fine line between so-bad-it's-good, and eyeball-searing-bad, and Live Feed manages to trip awkwardly over the line while still standing fifty feet away. We're talking sub-Troma bad. I'm having trouble recalling the last film I saw that was this inept. White Chicks will always hold a special place on my review resume as my only '0' score, but that score was made out of anger, not indifference. You have to earn a '0' my friends. Live Feed may be the only less-redeeming picture I've seen in a long time. At least White Chicks had, you know, a concept.
It appears that the film was shot on old fashion VHS video, with no regard for the creative camera work usually necessary to making a cheap film look good. So long as most of the cast is in the shot, everything seems OK by the DP, even if the head space is frequently too high, as if shot by a child that only knew to center objects within the frame. There's not really much style here to make up for the complete lack of substance.
How about the acting? It's bad. Annoying bad, not Ed Wood Jr. or H.G. Lewis 'funny-bad'. Shockingly, a fair number of the film's leads are working actors, not amateurs. Why a young working actor would want anything to do with this film after reading the script blows my mind. They couldn't have been paid well, and the actresses spend most of the film topless, having awkward faux-sex that really doesn't serve the film's 'plot'. Did the long, excruciating dialogue about pre-mature ejaculations maybe look better on the page somehow? Maybe these girls really like there own breasts, lord knows the dirctor does.
Yes, the film is sleazy, but even the most rabid gore-hound can't be getting much out of this boring, climaxless torture. The movie's show-stopper, and only remotely inspired scene, is a disturbing idea that's just as poorly executed as everything else. One of our heroines is stripped, tied-up, and tossed onto a couch in an already blood caked red room (ooo, red lighting, cool). A big guy in bondage leather then holds her friend in place, while a smaller dude rips off her shirt exposing her breasts (which are nice, but we've already seen quite a bit of them). Smaller dude then grabs a long, clear tube, and rolls out a series of Tai Chi moves before shoving the tube down her throat (as if he needed this Tai Chi wind-up to build up the strength to get it in there). Smaller dude produces the most harmless looking snake in the history of cinema, forces it into the tube, removes the tube, and staples the hapless female's mouth shut.
Don't worry PETA, the snake exits the girl's belly unharmed mere seconds later, even though anyone with a basic grasp of anatomy would know that the tiny snake would've been killed by the girl's stomach acids. In the hands of a filmmaker like Takashi Miike this scene may've actually been upsetting to watch, instead it's just another in a long line of uneventful events that lead us to the film's end, which cannot arrive soon enough. Yeah, there's quite a bit of gore here, but most of it is exercised without an understanding of what makes on screen gore interesting. The violence is neither shocking nor giddy, though the fact that the effects team's blood seems to be about three times thicker than intended is pretty funny. Instead of spraying out of wounds it sort of leaks out in chunks.
The sole moment of inspired stupidity comes at the end, when our hero is shot, 'shockingly' by that one surviving villain we'd forgotten about (yeah, right). Our surviving heroine drops to his side, grabs his arm and shouts "I'm not going to lose you like this", or some such clichéd line. While 'crying' (I'd refer to it more as whiny panting), she looks up at the cops who just watched the guy get shot about four times and weepily states that "He's been shot".
Live Feed looks cheap. I'm going to assume it was filmed digitally, but it really looks VHS. The problem is that I'm not sure what here was a creative 'decision', and what's simply bad digital mastering. I get that the torture set and porno house interiors are suppose to be dark, but often lack the key lighting that adds that all important element of contrast. It looks like production decided a few red light bulbs placed thru-out the room would do the trick. The image is often muddy, and there was a lot of digital blocking and low-level noise.
On top of this the film is not anamorphically enhanced, and when zoomed on a 16:9 set it looks even worse. I actually chose to watch the entire thing in standard TV mode so I could see what was going on. The occasional PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY forced subtitle was the crispest thing on the disc, and it leads me to believe that this is an unfinished version. That and the fact that the movie came on a DVDR.
Live Feed's visually ineptitudes are rivaled only by its excruciating score. Think of the first time your kid brother got his hands on a Casio Keyboard, and you've got a good idea on the quality of digital synth music here. Something scary happening on screen? Hit the high notes, hit 'em hard, and make sure you're as rhythmically disabled as possible while doing it. It's not only that this score is sloppy and derivative, but it's also thin.
The Dolby Surround mix is recorded at the highest volume level I think I've ever heard. When the film started it just about blew out my speakers, not to mention my eardrums, and my volume knob was set at a very conservative level. A louder mix is not an indication of a superior mix, as at normal levels Live Feed is distorted and buzzy. Again, this may not be a finished product, but it's what I was given.
The release info indicated that the disc would feature a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, director and cast commentary, alternative scenes, alternative ending, Womb Service – the movie within the movie, Richmond Night Market "Promo" spot, interactive menus, scene selection, trailers and Spanish subtitles. The Screener MTI sent me has nothing but a trailer, so that's what I'm forced to grade the disc on. Perhaps next time they'll see fit to send a finished product.
Some critics and viewers may lament Live Feed for being too sleazy and gory. Well I like sleazy and gory, and this didn't do a thing for me. There's nothing shocking or disturbing about the film, unless you account for the fact that it just stole 82 minutes of your life. This is an unbelievably amateur production without charm or creative ingenuity. It has no voice of its own, it's a clichéd rip-off, and it's shot like a garage band's music video promo reel. I recommend that director Ryan Nicholson stick to special effects make-up work, or at least take a few basic art classes (and, of course now that Nicholson has commented on my review in a shockingly kind way I feel like a total tool for this comment), I recommend that even the most tolerant gore-hounds stay far away, and I recommend MTI sends me a finished DVD next time if they want a fair review. Be sure to stay tuned through the credits for the lamest, most juvenile, and tired joke of the entire film (I do not apologize for this comment, however, bad joke).
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 3rd October 2006
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Surrond 2.0 English
Easter Egg: No
Director: Ryan Nicholson
Cast: Mike Bennett, Stephen Chang, Taayla Markell, Caroline Chojnacki, Kevan Ohtsji, Rob Scattergood
Length: 82 minutes
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