“Feast” started life as the winner of 2005’s “Project Greenlight”, the Reality TV show where Hollywood actors and kinda screenwriters Matt Damon and Ben Affleck offers a nobody the chance to win a screenwriting contest and have their film be made. “Feast” is a genre film through and through, written expressly for those who enjoy silly, illogical Creature Features and derivative Slasher films. Screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton know this intimately, as well as the conventions of the genre they are treading, and the result is fabulously and unpretentiously insane — in a good way.
From the very beginning, it is made abundantly clear that everyone is in on the joke, as each character’s introduction is accompanied by a freeze frame and written stats such as their nickname, a “fun fact”, and their character’s “life expectancy”. This is a very clever gag, and is actually a lot funnier than you might expect. One gets the feeling Dunstan and Melton were laughing their asses off as they composed these little stat sheets. In any case, we are quickly introduced to our myriad characters inside a dingy roadside bar in the middle of, literally, nowhere. It’s anybody’s guess how they got here, or how customers ever find this place.
In no time flat, half of the cast is slaughtered by fiendish creatures that like to wear their victim’s skin. Of the survivors, we have desperate waitress Tuffy (Krista Allen), who spends her time caring for her son and screwing Boss Man (Duane Whitaker); the asshole ne’er-do-well Bozo (Balthazar Getty) and his wheelchair bound little bro Hot Wheels (Josh Zuckerman); and travelling motivational speaker Coach (Henry Rollins), who is trying to pick up Hollywood starlet wannabe Honey Pie (Jenny Wade). Soon, the gang is joined by an unnamed “Hero” and his similarly unnamed wife “Heroine”, the latter being forced to pick up the savior role after hubby gets quickly eaten by the creatures within seconds of declaring that he’s here to save the day.
The quick death of “Hero” is exactly what “Feast” is all about — it knows its genre, it knows the conventions, and it is unwilling to abide by them because, let’s face it, the lack of originality within the genre is what is killing it slowly but surely. In fact, “Feast” plays so fast and loose with the expectations of the fanbase that for a moment, just a moment, you feel betrayed by the fates of some of these characters. But have no fear, that feeling of betrayal is quickly replaced by giddiness as Gulager and company continues to turn conventions on their heads, and at the same time keeping us on our feet trying to guess what we used to think were predictable plot twists. If you thought you know how “Feast” is going to end, you don’t know anything, for the simple fact that the filmmakers know that you know, and my oh my, do they have some surprises for you.
Before it hit DVD shelves, “Feast” had a brief rendezvous with a limited number of theaters, although why is hard to fathom. Mainstream moviegoers will simply not know what to do with it; likewise with mainstream film critics. “Feast” is so gory, filled end to end with sliced limbs, severed heads, and dangling entrails that the only way to see it is in its Unrated version (which is the one being reviewed here). The bloodbath is in full swing from the word Go, and Gulager never lets up. The simple brilliance of Dunstan and Melton’s script is that it is overly familiar, but entirely different. There are unexpected twists and turns sprinkled throughout all the familiar elements, and genre fans will get a major kick out of seeing their expectations completely trashed. And they’ll love it.
The star of “Feast” is Navi Rawat (TV’s Numb3rs), who delivers a credible performance as the Sarah Conner/Ellen Ripley clone. Krista Allen, usually known as “hot chick” in big movies, and of course the infamous “Emmanuelle” TV series, is outstanding as the down-on-her-life waitress who buckles up to assist Rawat’s character in keeping everyone alive. Other notables include alternative rocker Henry Rollins, playing, of all people, an annoying optimistic motivational speaker whose ring finger is missing a ring. Kevin Smith fans will also catch Jason Mewes, playing a loser name…Jason Mewes? After a brief cameo losing at pool, Mewes gets his face ripped off. Ouch.
Simply put: If you are not a fan of the Creature Feature genre or the Last Stand in a Haunted House movies, then “Feast” will seem inane and incoherent to you. And in truth, it is, in a fashion. This is not a movie for the novice that doesn’t know about the survival percentages associated with stock characters such as the Square-Jawed Hero, the nameless Bartender, the Hussy, and the Token Black Guy. And if the phrase Old Man Who Knows Stuff doesn’t mean anything to you, then you’ll miss one of the film’s best moments, when asshole Bozo “interrogates” Grandma (Eileen Ryan) and expects her to fill him in on the mysteries of the creatures laying in wait outside. It’s really a minor moment in the film, but damn is it funny.
John Gulager (director) / Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton (screenplay)
CAST: Eric Dane …. Hero
Navi Rawat …. Heroine
Krista Allen …. Tuffy
Balthazar Getty …. Bozo
Diane Goldner …. Harley Mom
Judah Friedlander …. Beer Guy
Jenny Wade …. Honey Pie
Duane Whitaker …. Boss Man
Josh Zuckerman …. Hot Wheels
Eileen Ryan …. Grandma
Clu Gulager …. Bartender
Henry Rollins …. Coach
Jason Mewes …. Jason Mewes