Unearthly Mess

Washington City Paper | September 22, 2006
Feast is the latest product of Project Greenlight, the screenwriting contest/reality show that gives hope to wannabe filmmakers that they can mimic the fairy tale of Good Will Hunting, the first and Oscar-winning script by the show’s celebrity names, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The program, funded by Miramax Television and the Weinstein Company, is in its third year despite its first two movies, Stolen Summer and The Battle of Shaker Heights, getting limited releases and even smaller box-office returns. Feast, being an unabashed splatter-fest, is likely to receive more attention than the previous winning scripts, but only story-dismissing gore junkies—fans of, say, Saw—will declare this any better than other offerings in the recent parade of disposable slashers.

It starts off promisingly enough. First-time director John Gulager opens with a small, black-and-white frame of desert, which bursts into color when a car hits a telephone pole head-on. Cut to a bar, where the patrons drive grubby trucks with bumper stickers printed with such witticisms as “My Other Toy Has Tits!” As the characters are introduced, there’s a yellow-shaded still of each that includes name (usually such horror-movie stereotypes as “Bozo”) and life expectancy, which, entertainingly, is used to describe either a character’s time/method of death or what his future holds (for Jason Mewes’ Edgy Cat it proclaims, “already surpassed expectations”). And as soon as Bozo (Balthazar Getty), trying to rouse the life-weary drunkards and staff, yells, “C’mon, give me some action!” you know what’s coming next.

For about a third of the movie—written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton—everything’s kind of Shaun of the Dead amusing. (If you forgive the blatant rip-off of a group holing themselves up in a bar while bitey things try to get in.) Henry Rollins plays a borderline fey motivational speaker—“These monsters are no match for the human spirit!”—and a torn-apart, maggot-covered, barely-alive customer (Judah Friedlander) mumbles, “God, your sink sucks!” as he’s trying to clean up a bit. The invading creatures themselves are sort of like lightning-quick, squealing jackals, covered in lots of slime and spewing maggots (hello, Slither?); one of the writers’ funnier, more inspired elements is the unexpected method the munchers use to reproduce.

But there’s never an explanation for where these monsters come from. They don’t really appear all that often—though when they do, the over-the-top butchering should elicit more laughs than cardiac-arrest scares. As the 86 minutes go on and on, the funny dialogue sinks to sub-B-movie levels (drinking game: a shot every time someone says, “Lock this place down!” or “We have to fight!”) along with the majority of performances (Navi Rawat as “Heroine” is particularly abominable). Gulager’s initially interesting camerawork, in which he doesn’t frenetically bobble the camera during the first attacks as much as he seems to drop it and knock it around (OK, third rip-off: Blair Witch), becomes a convenient ploy to keep the audience from finding out that even the filmmakers don’t know what the hell is going on. And thus another fairy tale ends up, well, a bloody mess.

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