As FEAST begins, you'd be forgiven for thinking Guy Ritchie had started making horror films. As a rock song plays loudly a roving camera enters a bar and freeze-frames occasionally on each character as text onscreen tells us who they are, and what their life expectancy for the evening is.
We get introduced to pool hustler Bozo (Balthazar Getty), feisty Harley (Diane Goldner), disabled Hot Wheels (Josh Zuckerman), motivational speaker Coach (Henry Rollins), drunken elderly slut Grandma (Eileen Ryan), aspiring actor Jason, the put-upon-single-mother-working-hard-as-a-waitress-to-make-ends-meet Tuffy (Krista Allen), the straight-laced Vet (Anthony 'Treach' Criss), permanently stoned Bossman (Duane Whittaker), starry-eyed model Honey Pie (Jenny Wade), smart kid Cody (Tyler Patrick Jones), the self explanatorily named Beer Guy (Judah Friedlander) and the even more obviously monickered Bartender (Clu Gulager).
Hot Wheels is in a wheelchair. When his life expectancy appears on screen, the text reads "They wouldn't kill a cripple, would they?". When Grandma is introduced, a 'fun fact' appears in text: she "Blew Mick Jagger … recently". Two minutes into the film, and already I was thinking "Oh dear".
The opening ten minutes of the film establish each character with a minimum of exposition - we learn that Harley's a hooker, Coach is a philandering husband, Beer Guy is a hopeless loser, and so on.
Bozo, meanwhile is an ill-tempered gambler who starts to kick off when no-one will challenge him at pool. The situation is about to erupt when the bloodied Hero (Eric Dane) storms into the bar, gun in one hand and severed head in the other.
Having won the undivided attention of the bar patrons, Hero warns them that there are four very hungry creatures heading in their direction. He urges the people to barricade themselves in the bar with him, and to call the police and National Guard for help.
Suddenly, the opening Guy Ritchie stylee and the silly humourous introductions are cast aside and, 11 minutes into the film, things seem to be hotting up very quickly.
Things soon escalate further when Hero becomes the first fatality of the film, his head being torn off in spectacularly gory fashion. With the first monster inside the bar and the remaining survivors screaming for their lives, perhaps their best hope from hereon in will be the mysterious Heroine (Navi Rawat) … perhaps not.
As events simmer down for a short while, the group convene in the bar to plan their survival strategy. Having locked the doors and shuttered the windows, they feel more secure - temporarily. It's not long before another ugly beast has burst through an upstairs window and more chaos ensues.
The dialogue is cheesy, and the occasional attempts at humour range between being dumb and crass. But thankfully, these quibbles soon mean next to nothing as the film quickly develops into an all-out gorefest with frequent moments of straight-faced tension and well-executed attack scenes.
At times there's an unhealthy amount of Tarantino's influence evident (some of the gimmicky camera techniques; the expletive-heavy script). But for the most part, the film wins through pure energy and a verve rarely seen in contemporary genre films.
Well-shot, well-lit and well acted, FEAST is a technically competent feature debut from director John Gulager. And although it's nothing original (the storyline - I hesitate to use the word 'plot' as there isn't much of one - echoes everything from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to THE MIST), it's the fanboy gore that's going to leave a lasting impression.
And there is plenty of gore to be enjoyed. Mercifully, all the FX are of the foam latex and stage blood variety - there's no CGI to spoil the mood here. The monsters don't look scary, but they sure do make a mess of their victims. Gulager's camera captures the gory action unflinchingly.
The main limitation the film has budget-wise is that it's virtually all shot within the bar. Which makes sense of course, what little storyline there is concerns this group's desperate attempts to survive an overnight siege. But it does get a little samey at times. As enjoyable as the film is as a whole, it's short running time (80 minutes) still feels perhaps 10 minutes too long.
The shift from comedy to tension may alarm some, but I found the transition quite well-handled. The film definitely works better when taking itself more seriously and at its best works when combining the sharp editing of James Mastracco with Stephen Edwards' pulse-quickening score.
Some may not be able to get past the gleefully dumb script, but if you're willing to go with it, this is fun in a good old-fashioned RE-ANIMATOR/THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD manner. Only gorier.
The film was financed by Project Greenlight, an annual contest seeking to aid financing movies from aspiring filmmakers. The ongoing project is connected to Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Wes Craven. So don't be alarmed to find that bizarre trinity among the Executive Producer credits …
FEAST looks good for it's UK DVD debut, benefiting from a crisp and colourful anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer. Images are bright and the presentation is an overall clean, strong proposition.
The English audio is offered in both 2.0 and a rousing, beefy 5.1 mix.
Static menu pages include a scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.
The DVD's moderately generous in terms of extras, which kick off with "Horror Under The Spotlight: Making FEAST".
"I'm not very good at expressing myself" says Gulager Jr (yes, he's Clu's son). But he does a fair job of explaining the difficulties of filming on a relatively small budget in the desert while a TV crew follows your every move. He also talks of how queasy he was at directing his father, and how he went out and shot a lot of footage on Super-8mm in the hope of including footage in the film that the producers said wouldn't make it (a dead dog found on the roadside, for instance).
Alongside the director, the actors and writers all get to say their piece while clips from the film and occasional behind-the-scenes footage fill out the 11-minute running time.
"The Blood and Guts of Gary Tunnicliffe" follows, a 9-minute featurette where the talented Aussie creature FX artist discusses what sounds like a rewarding experience making the film. More than that, this serves as a profile of Tunnicliffe's career as a whole - from his start refusing to follow his father's footsteps as an electrician, and how he moved from wanting to be an actor to catching the FX bug via reading Fangoria.
He goes on to describe the process of creating FEAST's monsters, and the cast are on hand too to sing his praises in little talking-head snippets.
"Blood On The Cutting Room Floor" is 5 deleted scenes that are mostly banter, but there's some additional gore towards the end too.
Outtakes and the original theatrical trailer round out the bonus features.
The disc opens with trailers for DONKEY PUNCH, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE and THE ORPHANAGE.
FEAST covers no new ground, but attacks old conventions with oodles of energy and a fan-pleasing mixture of black humour, well-edited action and lashing of old-school gore. The rumoured sequel is said to rely more on the comedy …
FEAST will please fans of good old-fashioned gory monster flicks. I'm not sure what teeny fans of talentless slut Sienna Miller will make of it though, when they stumble across this film hoping to learn more about her current squeeze Getty …
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Optimum Home Entertainment|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|