Format: DVD from Stockton Township Public Library through interlibrary loan on basement television
I don’t know where to start with Feast, although I should probably start with its genesis. Feast is arguably the most successful of the movies created on Project Greenlight, the old four-season show that documented someone getting a movie project, well, greenlit under the tutelage of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The first two seasons gave us dramas, and season three when straight genre with Feast, a sloppy horror/comedy that goes for Peter Jackson horror movie levels of gore.
Feast is a movie that trades virtually entirely on attitude. When each character is introduced, for instance, we are given (in most cases) a snarky nickname (“Bozo,” “Hot Wheels” for the guy in a wheelchair, “Harley Mom,” “Beer Guy,” and more), an equally snarky bio, and a prediction of how long they might survive in the carnage to come. After a few minutes of set up in a bar in the middle of nowhere when a new character, identified as Hero (Eric Dane) bursts in with the head of some giant, terrifying creature. He tells the patrons that hell is coming and they need to prepare the bar for an invasion of huge, hungry monsters. And, because Feast wants to play with our expectations, just as he tells everyone he’s the guy who is going to save them, the monsters show up, break through a window, and bite his head off, literally.
The rest of the movie consists of the bar being attacked and the patrons fighting back against them while being slowly picked off. There are a few genuine surprises here. One character, identified initially as Tuffy (Krista Allen), has a young son who spends time in the upstairs of the bar while she works (and is forced to have sex with the bar owner, called Boss Man (Duane Whitaker)). We’re told at the start that Cody (Tyler Patrick Jones) is going to have a long and happy life, but he’s going to be devoured whole early on.
Much of the movie consists of the bar patrons, led at various times by Bartender (classic actor Clu Gulager, father of the director), Bozo (Balthazar Getty), Heroine (Navi Rawat)—who is the wife of the slain hero, and Coach (Henry Rollins), trying to survive. Much of it is them using the scientific method to figure out how to deal with the monsters outside. When they manage to kill the youngest and smallest of the monsters, they try to taunt the creatures, only to find that the creatures eat their dead child, have sex immediately afterwards, and pump out two more spawn.
There’s a lot of blood and other bodily fluids in Feast. We’re going to have people getting their faces ripped off (as happens to Jason Mewes, listed either as himself or as “Edgy Cat”), dismembered (Diane Ayala Goldner’s Harley Mom), or vomited on and dissolved slowly over time (Judah Friedlander’s Beer Guy). A lot of what is going to pass for humor here is the realization that the monsters are not just hungry, but horny. There’s a lot of random humping, and even a moment where one of the critters gets forcibly castrated.
For me, Feast commits one of the biggest sins any movie can. Probably the biggest sin a movie can commit is being boring, and at least Feast isn’t that. But it’s very difficult to watch. What I mean by that is not that there are things on screen that are unpleasant (although there are), but that the action is difficult to track. There are a lot of fast cuts, jittery camera movements, and jumping around. We never really get a very solid look at the creatures for any length of time. There are moments that I’m sure are supposed to be nasty and funny, and they end up struggling to be either, because it’s virtually impossible to follow the action.
There are ways to film horror comedy that do exactly what Feast wants to do. While Army of Darkness isn’t nasty, it does have some action sequences that are filmed in a hyper-kinetic style that can still be followed. There are action sequences in Slither that are gross and funny and comprehensible. Unfortunately, Feast happened in that era of filmmaking where the way to convey action and speed was to remove every fourth or fifth frame from a sequence to make it look “jagged” and hyper and edgy. All it really does is make things look confusing and ugly.
Show us the action. Show it in terms of where the camera is placed (midrange is always best for a fight), in terms of lighting (I want to see what is happening), and in terms of editing (a cut every six frames becomes impossible to follow). If you can’t show your effects in good lighting and for a few seconds at a time, get better effects, get a better budget, or write your way around it. A shitty lighting crew and an editor with no attention span isn’t a solution.
Why to watch Feast: It’s a lot more surprising than you might expect.
Why not to watch: Jittery camera movements make it hard to follow.