“Feed” marks somewhat of a change in direction for Brett Leonard, whose last outing was the ridiculous comic book adaptation “Man-Thing”. Although the director has dealt with the perils of technology before in the likes of “Virtuosity” and “The Lawnmower Man”, here he takes a far more grounded and less fantastic approach, aiming for shocks by exploring how the Internet allows people to play out some of their more grotesque and perverse desires.
The plot follows Phillip (Patrick Thompson, also in “Man-Thing”), an Australian internet policeman who becomes obsessed with proving that there is something sinister behind a website which features grossly overweight women being force-fed by apparently loving captors. His search drags him into the fetishistic subculture of feeders and gainers, an extreme and dangerous form of sub-dom, and leads him to website owner Michael Carter (Alex O’Loughlin, another Australian and fellow “Man-Thing” refugee), a quite obviously disturbed young man with a mysterious past. Taking matters into his own hands, the detective tracks Michael to suburban America , but finds himself not only facing off against a colossal pervert but the ugly truth about his own yearnings.
“Feed” has a conventional and unadventurous narrative, and indeed the script is probably the film’s weakest element, with much of Phillip’s investigation proceeding as a result of shabby incompetence on the part of his quarry. The characters are similarly undeveloped, with psycho Michael acting as little more than a mouthpiece for cod-philosophical mutterings along the lines of ‘consumption is evolution’, and Phillip being a rather two dimensional ball of tightly woven neurosis.
Still, the subject matter is morbidly fascinating, enough so to keep the viewer hooked, and Leonard does manage to throw in a few effective twists along the way, making for a fairly tense experience for most of the running time, though the final scenes sadly degenerate into the usual gun pointing and hysterical shouting. The final twist is gruesomely amusing in a “Tales from the Crypt” sort of way, though it has quite obviously been tacked on for effect rather than narrative logic.
The film is genuinely perverse throughout, packed with nudity and deviant sex, most of it in the form of scenes of masturbation and intercourse featuring horribly obese women (most of whom are actually actresses wearing wholly convincing fat suits). There are a few brief splatters of gore and violence towards the end, though most of the film’s nastiness comes through its frequent scenes of flying fat and vomit, a good deal of which is truly nauseating.
As such, the whole affair has the queasy air of a freak show, though to be fair, Leonard clearly employs the material as a direct challenge to the viewer’s own prejudices and as a tool for exploring notions of societal acceptance and hypocrisy, and of the fine line between abuse and consent. Unfortunately, the film’s intellectual leanings are undermined by Michael’s ranting and slogan-shouting, which takes it more into traditional psycho-thriller territory rather than the searching study of the eccentricities and extremities of desire which it could have been
Leonard shoots “Feed” on mobile HD, giving things an intimate, realistic look and making the viewer feel uncomfortably voyeuristic. Unfortunately, the resulting claustrophobia is frequently interrupted by the director’s tendency to throw in flashy editing and music video style jump cuts, most of which are entirely out of place. The soundtrack itself is similarly inappropriate, being made up of wacky old songs which contain less than subtle references to food, and the usual pounding techno rock.
The end result is a somewhat unsubtle, though effectively tense and repulsive thriller which marks Brett Leonard of being capable of far more interesting things than his back catalogue would suggest.
Brett Leonard (director) / Kieran Galvin (screenplay)
CAST: Alex O’Loughlin …. Michael Carter
Sherly Sulaiman …. Mary
Jack Thompson …. Richard
Patrick Thompson …. Philipp Jackson
Yure Covich …. Hans
Matthew Le Nevez …. Nigel