Feast (2005) — Too meta for its own good

“It’s just… it’s been a while since someone’s been horribly killed, and it seems like an opportune time for someone to be… well… offed.”

Al’s rating: 2 out of 17 cast members should have known better

Al’s review: The premise of Feast is simple enough: Seventeen people are trapped in a run-down bar and must survive the night against unstoppable, encroaching baddies. The director, John Gulager, is quite clearly a fan of slasher movies (most likely those that end in “Part IV”, “Part V”, “Part VI”, or “3-D”) and in Feast, he has been given license to make good on every horror geek’s fantasy: to make his own scary movie and fill it with every cliché and in-joke he’s proud of himself for having committed to memory. The plot is about as deep as a puddle and that’s actually not a criticism.

The rest of film, however, cannot toe the line between parody and indulgence nearly as well, and while we’re not talking disgusting, arrogant, Eli Roth-level ego stroking, Feast still suffers and ultimately comes across as a mildly distracting, half-baked effort from someone with far more talent than is present in the finished product.

The problems start with the characters, or lack thereof. As I’m sure anyone reading this review knows, slashers films, especially those made in the last half of the eighties, are known for bloody onscreen deaths of good looking, scantily-clad warm bodies. I have no problem with this — Friday the 13th Part 4 is a favorite of mine, and you can’t get characters much sketchier than “Large-Breasted Twin #1” and “Guy Who Can’t Get Laid.” In 1996, Wes Craven redefined the horror movie with Scream, and, again, I bear it no ill will for doing so. However, anyone who has seen a scary movie, or even just read a review of one in the last 11 years, can tell you that Scream has made it nigh impossible in this day and age to make an eighties-style slasher film anymore.

Horror movies now have a nearly genre-crippling need to be tongue-in-cheek about what goes on onscreen, and Feast is no exception. By minute one, we are hip to the filmmakers knowledge of how slashers films work and what we should and should not expect. As we enter the bar, the camera pans around and each character is given a freeze frame when they are introduced. We’re clued in on which archetype they represent, what they are doing in here tonight, and how long we can expect them to live in this sort of movie. It’s really a pretty clever idea, and it’s amusing the first few times they do it. But remember that there are seventeen people in this movie. They all get this little intro, and, as funny as it is, it ain’t that funny. The characters don’t even get names, they are simply Bozo, Bartender, Heroine, Boss Man, etc.

The other issue I take with their quick-n-dirty approach to the cast is that Gulager and company then feel absolutely no need to explain these characters any further for the entire duration of the film. Zip. Zero. Bagel. I get that they’re just cannon fodder, but they’re not even interesting cannon fodder, and if the filmmakers are deliberately not giving any pretense of having a character with three dimensions, it’s that much harder to really give a hoot when they bite it. You lose an awful lot of depth perception with one eye constantly winking at the camera.

But, hey, Feast is devoting as little time as possible to the characters because they’re making room for all the bloody carnage, right? Who needs drama when you have gristle? Unfortunately, the production team forgot how little money they had to work with, and, quite frankly, the monsters in Feast suck. Like the dispensable meat sacks inside the bar, the creatures on the other side of the walls are just as thinly-painted. We are told a) we don’t know what they are, b) we don’t know where they came from, and c) we don’t know what they want but d) they are trying to kill us so that’s all that matters. Were these creatures a bit more entertaining, that might be true, but without much of a budget to back up all the snarling and snuffling we hear offscreen, the big bads of Feast are relegated much to the status of “Wampa” in The Empire Strikes Back: lots hair, teeth, claws, and maybe one or two wide shots so we can get a vague idea of what they want us to think we’re seeing when they shake the camera around real fast. I walked away with the impression that they look like something of a cross between Aliens, Predators, and that Eyes-On-His-Hands Demon from Pan’s Labyrinth, but they aren’t nearly as interesting as any single one of those.

Like every horror movie, we do get a few money shots, but most of the deaths we see are the same stale ‘claws and teeth and spurting blood’ that became the entire reason Scream needed to be created. Should I be troubled that ‘claws and teeth and spurting blood’ has become a mundane occurrence to me? Oh well.

Feast is really trying, don’t get me wrong. It attempts to go all ‘meta’ by taking the tongue-in-cheek-ness of it’s predecessors and going one step further by turning what ought to be your expectation on it’s head. Unfortunately, they set up those false expectations so laboriously and obviously that when they try and surprise you by immediately killing off the guy they just labeled ‘will probably survive’, it’s no shock to you and it’s not nearly as funny as they must think it is. It’s not a terrible flick, and that’s probably the biggest issue I take with it.

There’s a good movie buried in Feast – but they made it ten years ago and they called it From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. Let George and Quentin and Salma and Harvey show you how it’s done, John, then come back and try again. You have the passion for the business and I want to see what else you got. I think the main course will be worth waiting for, but Feast is just an appetizer that you can probably skip.

Kyle’s rating: I’ll see anything with Navi Rawat, but give us some straight-up horror, please

Kyle’s review: Feast is made for frat houses and, more specifically, people who like watching horror films in the company of a bunch of friends while there is a whole of drinking and drunken rambling going on. I suspect that it was also made to be an innovative and fresh take upon the “trapped in a house surrounded by monsters” horror genre, but you really can’t win them all.

Honestly, all I could think about while watching Feast was how much better Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight did this sort of story, which lead me to wondering where and how cheaply I could get Demon Knight on DVD and how cool Demon Knight would have been if Navi Rawat had been in it.

By the time I snapped back to reality, Feast was over. I didn’t mind at all.

See, let me get into some major spoilers so I can further convince you to skip this one (this paragraph is full o’ spoilers! Skip to the next one to stay “clean,” ya crazy varmit!). One of those “innovative” things Feast attempts is having the typical hero and heroine (“innovatively” named Hero [Eric Dane] and Heroine [Navi Rawat]) die ridiculously early on and soon enough in a stupid way, respectively. Which could have worked out, if Dane and Rawat weren’t the absolute best things about this film. Honestly, in his extremely limited (we’re talking a matter of minutes) screentime, Mr. “McSteamy” Dane is so charming and dynamic that once he’s gone, the film seems to deflate immediately upon his absence. Rawat’s first appearance restores quite a bit of excitement to the film, but everything else is mere deadweight that does its best to drag her work down. Once Rawat exits the film, caring about anything that happens is mostly impossible.

Feast is especially frustrating for how desperately it’s striving to be great, and seemingly coming up just a l-i-t-t-l-e bit short on enough fronts that it all adds up to disappointment. Al correctly focused on that inherent self-awareness that 99% of horror films post-Scream carry; Feast tries to use it for both strength and spoof and again lets the (metaphorical) air out of its own tires by just not connecting on (what it wants to be) its strong elements and being mostly lame with the spoof-y parts.

As always, though, I have to wonder if Feast might not be someone’s preferred cup of tea. An apt recent comparison would be Slither, and despite a similar series of minor annoyances and creative quirks Slither manages to ultimately entertain. I’d argue it is the stronger cast, a stronger execution of the concept, and a better understanding of when to be horrific and when to be funny/cute that gives Slither the edge. I’m incapable of enjoying Feast; I’d like to think it’s because of my accumulated taste in horror films and my overall perspectives on all things “art.” But maybe my preferences on when I want fun and frivolity in my horror films determines how much I can appreciate Feast. Isn’t taste funny that way?

Didja notice?

  • Henry Rollins! I wondered where he disappeared to!
  • Mewes! Hi, Mewes!
  • That every action sequence is under cranked so it looks like it was filmed for the Benny Hill Show?
  • That, according to Heroine, she and Hero ran directly from their overturned car into the bar and yet somehow both arrive toting shotguns?

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