directed by John Gulager
written by Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
starring Navi Rawat, Clu Gulager, Krista Allen, Jenny Wade, Josh Zuckerman, Balthazar Getty, Henry Rollins, Diane Goldner, Eileen Ryan
miramax films, 95 mins., 2005
*** (out of ****)
Imagine chilling out at your local bar, enjoying your time, hitting on the ladies while drinking your drink. All is well for, say, ten minutes - and then some bloodied up super model of an action hero runs into your bar, holds up a head of a frakking hideous monster beast, tells you they're [note: they're; as in more than one] coming, and it's time to bear arms and fight. Aside from the initial disbelief, once you watch our self-proclaimed "Hero" become monster chow, you're undoubtedly [and rightfully so] shitting your pants. And now, it's up to you and these fifteen or so random strangers to band together and fight to survive, or else you're not going to make it out alive.
Thus beginith FEAST, the result of a highly-regarded HBO reality series called PROJECT GREENLIGHT. Notably executively produced by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and horror mastermind Wes Craven, GREENLIGHT offered the winning director a chance to helm their own movie at a modest budget. The programs third season winner was the seemingly shy, but occasionally spontaneously bouncy John Gulager. Gulager sought out to direct a horror film, set in a bar, as far away from any sort of "coming-of-age" story as possible [being as how the last two PROJECT GREENLIGHT winners directed such a thing], and to this he succeeded. Horrific in every sense of the way, FEAST features plenty of gore, body parts being ripped and flying all over the place, and heads exploding. But this movie isn't notable for its gore - its the tight script by then-newcomers Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan.
Taking every horror cliche and turning itself upside down, FEAST revels in doing exactly what you don't expected, more specifically the taboos of horror films. Aside from the shock value, it's also occasionally funny. That's the beauty about this film - it brilliantly blends horror and comedy together, the comedy moreso originating from the horror than actual humorous Mike Meyers-like one-liners. Additionally, the film's real highlight comes whenever a new character is introduced, a title card pops up and freezes for a few seconds, detailing their occupation, a fun fact, and most hilarious of all - their life expectancy! It's a hilarious concept that I really wish would be integrated into virtually all horror movies [alright, maybe not applicable to all horror flicks - but there's plenty that could benefit from it!]. It's a perfect satire. The best example I could bring up would be Simon Pegg's SHAUN OF THE DEAD; this film is almost exactly like that, minus the zombies and actual, y'know, plot.
Character-wise, you have your mandatory stereotypes, but the real beauty is that they're presented in such a satirical way that they're acknowledging those stereotypes and having a blast messing with 'em. There's the Bartender, the only military vet who knows everything; Hot Wheels, the poor wheel-chair bound teenage virgin; Grandma, the silent, disapproving oldie; Boss Man, the prick of a boss that we're glad to see get his just rewards; Tuffy, the single mom who will do anything to support her child; and there's plenty more, but I'm too lazy to type them all up. Suffice it to say, almost every clichéd stereotypical character is present here, and every single one of them are faced with decisions on how to survive. Oh, and I also want to use this opportunity to mention how beautiful Navi Rawat is; I wish she was my wife. But then again, she might have slight competition with Frida Pinto. Ugh. To be favored by so many women - it's difficult.
The creatures themselves are hid in the shadows or seen through extreme close-ups of the beast that you can't make out what the hell you're looking at. It's not enough the film's final 12 minutes that the monsters are shown in their true, man-in-suit glory [I'm not dissing it; on the contrary, I applaud this film for embracing the man-in-suit technique - and to fantastic effect!]. Speaking of that, I still don't understand why the monsters cloaked themselves in those giant skins - it reminded me of THE VILLAGE, where the supposed "monsters" had red cloaks over their boney body. In retrospect, they're not really needed, and I wager they only came about to create a sense of mystery about them - or, realistically, cut down production costs or something like that. Point is: without the cloaks, these monsters look badass, and you definitely begin to fret for the protagonists when they breach the walls and all hell breaks loose - and that's not an exaggeration. Devilish and brutal, these beasts kill and eat anything - plus there's that whole thing where they seem nearly indestructible.
And the finale - holy crap that was awesome. Seriously, the last fifteen minutes alone makes this flick worth picking up. It's insane carnage all over the place, as the monsters are shown in all their glory, ripping and slicing all the survivors. And the very last kill, made by Tuffy (oops, spoiler) as she punches the monster through it's mouth and apparently reaches its organ - damn, that was awesome. Gruesome and sorta disgusting, but awesome.
In the end, FEAST is an delight: it was unpredictable, it was horrific, it was funny, and most importantly, it was fun. Although I'm not a fan of the mass amounts of gore, there's enough non-guts related things to appreciate and dig. When taking into account the entire FEAST saga, I would recommend just checking out the first one on its own - the others are skippable. However, I know how useless that recommendation is, because plenty of others offered the same thing, and I still went on to watch the following two titles below.
FEAST II: SLOPPY SECONDS
directed by John Gulager
written by Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
starring Clu Gulager, Jenny Wade, Diane Goldner, Martin Kleeba, Juan Longoria Garciace, Tom Gulager, Carl Anthony Payne II, & Hanna Putnam
dimension films, 97 mins., 2008
** (out of ****)
FEAST was such a success that two back-to-back sequels were put into production (although, surprisingly, not immediately; I guess the brilliant concept for a FEAST franchise didn’t happen right away). Distributed under the Dimension Extreme Direct-to-DVD label - famous for such Oscar nominated endeavors like TEETH and PULSE 2 & 3 – the eagerly anticipated sequel to the smash independent favorite was released in late 2008 to mostly not positive reviews, critics and fans alike declaring it nowhere near as unique as the first, nor reaching its level of awesomeness. It is now that I wish to address the funnyness of its title - how correct it is; "Sloppy Seconds" - and the movie is sloppy seconds - oh, how I crack myself up. Where do I come up with these things?
The first FEAST was quite intelligent in that it took all pre-conceived notions and horror clichés, and literally ripped them apart, not to mention having a tad bit of joy poking fun at the genre (similar to Kevin Williamson’s script for SCREAM). SLOPPY SECONDS isn’t nearly as good as the first, but it does have its merits, and it’s worth watching for the enjoyment factor, if not just to see how the so-called ‘story’ progresses (really truly, the story is just coaxed to bring about more carnage).
Picking up a day after the events of the first, a full-on lesbian biker gang, led by the dominating Biker Queen who would give Emperor Palpatine a scare, shows up at the damaged-beyond-repair bar, finding only the Bartender alive. Biker Queen wants to know who killed her twin sister, Harley Mom, and she’s prepared to beat the information out of him. Being the old, broken down bloke he is, the Bartender dishes the info: the dude’s name was Bozo and he should be staying at the next town. Taking him hostage, Biker Queen and the gang go on a little road trip. Once there, however, they find that shit has hit the proverbial fan, as the demonic beasts that terrorized his bar have laid waste to the entire town. Corpses, blood and screams meet them – no Bozo. With these monsters on full attack force, Bartender and the biker gang meet up with some other survivors (including Honey Pie, who left them for dead in the first film), take weapons, and prepare to fight their way out of this hell-hole.
It sounds like an almost good idea. I mean, it sounds like a natural evolution, yes? The first film takes place specifically in a bar (note: we’re forgetting the fact that budget restraints played a role and instead consider it an artistic license), so naturally, the second would occur either in a town or…a mall? (a la DAWN OF THE DEAD; I think it would have been brilliant!) To my utter disappointment, they took quite the great notion and dumbed it down to childish, sex and genitalia jokes that don’t elicit even the slightest of a chuckle [though, I guess it could be argued that the inclusion of such segments are more for a ‘shock’ factor moreso than a representation of the writers’ warped minds]. Anyhow, the purpose of this review is to discuss what is, not what could have been.
Let's talk about the characters. The only people returning from the first are Bartender and Honey Pie [although an deceased character shows up for one of the most frakked up and disgusting dream sequences that I've ever seen on film]. Bartender has this very Jack Bauer atmosphere around him: it seems he can never die; be beaten to kingdom come, be sliced and diced and bit, but that damn old man never dies. Taking into account how the third film concludes, I wager the Bartender will be the one recurring character throughout the series [whenever they start making the next trilogy]. When he and Honey Pie meet again, the Bartender beats her silly, smashing her head against the toilet. It's messed up beyond belief - the biker gang not giving the ouncest damn of their battle royale. Speaking of Honey Pie, her character is sadly underused and, in the grand scheme of things, completely unnecessary. Unless Metlon & Dunstan really wanted some sort of 'You betrayed us, bitch!' brawal to bring about closure, Honey Pie offers nothing to this story. The majority of her scenes are her crying, screaming, and hiding for covering - not to mention her pathetic attempts at firing a gun. It's an unfortunate fate for a character that could potentially have something along the lines of depth. Frightning concept, I know.
New to the series is Carl Anthony Payne II as Slasher, a real estate agent who just found out his wife Secrets (Putnam) is having an affair with Greg Swank (oh, how I love that name). Carl comes across as pretty funny, owning the idea of comic relief self-righteously; it's a pity he doesn't have much to do in the next one. And perhaps the best surprise was Martin Kleeber being in this flick - I have no clue what his role was in those flicks, but I recall him from the totally awesome PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN trilogy [hate me if you must]; this little guy is nearly as awesome as Minni Me. His Spanish-speaking brother, Lightning, is hilarious with his subtitles and obvious agitation with everyone inept ability to deal with the situation.
Something that bugs me more than the boat-size amount of gore is the friggin monsters humping everything. In the first one, you have a sliced monster dick; in this, these monsters are humping almost anything they can stick it into. I seriously cannot understand the funny with monster sex humor, nor do I find the funny when someone is making the motion to hump a dog. Really, this type of humor is lame enough to be featured in that piece of shit teen comedy COLLEGE. And yes, I'm sure this is all just a way to break barriers, but it annoys me. Hell, I'm more agitated by that then the baby sequence - which could very well make me a cold bastard.
FEAST II is alright; I'm not exactly stoked at the direction Melton & Dunstan have decided to take the series, but it works nevertheless. Definitely more politically incorrect than any of the others, if you get offended quite easily, this is not for you[dude, don't let your grandma watch this; hell, maybe your mom shouldn't either, if you're a teen male, she'll probably try to cover your eyes from the free-as-the-air boobies].
FEAST III: THE HAPPY FINISH
directed by John Gulager
written by Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
starring Clu Gulager, Diane Goldner, Juan Longoria Garcia, Carl Anthony Payne II, Hanna Putnam Tom Gulager, Craig Henningsen, Josh Blue
dimension films, 79 mins., 2009
*1/2 (out of ****)
The two direct-to-video installments play a lot like a two episode season finale, where the penultimate episode concludes with a thrilling cliffhanger with our protagonists in some deep doo-doo, and the following episode instantly resolves the conflict. FEAST II and III are two parts of one story, and it’s a little unfortunate that such a good idea doesn’t reach its full potential due to not only weak direction, but also, and perhaps more severely, a poor script. The trouble, I believe, starts with the fact the masterminding trio thought that it would be cooler to have these two movies be one big story instead of a trilogy of stand-alone features that would be different in their own right; the main flaw is that the story set-up in FEAST II isn’t large enough to successfully be carried further, as evidenced by III’s shortened running time. To solve this dilemma, they’ve constructed a series of unbelievably insane stunts (seriously, they need to be seen to believed) and useless characters to fill in the lack of actual story they have (since story is, I’m sure you all will agree, the most vital ingredient for a good film, horror or otherwise; oh, who am I kidding?). And once again, I can't help but remark on how appropriate the title is: I am so very happy this story is finished. Time to move onto something better.
Immediately we're put into the middle of the conflict that concluded FEAST II: the beasts are about to barge in on our heroes as some of our cast mates leave us in thrilling bloody style. Once this ordeal is resolved, they all agree to get the frak out of Dodge, but how? Well, thank their few blessings, because they meet a man who has deemed himself The Prophet due to his ability to "control" the beasts and do with them as he pleases. With his help, they can easily leave town without problems, eh? Well, due to complications with his "power", it doesn't always work - thus, while having a jolly good time walking through the sewers, our team of fantastically written characters encounter beast-puke-infected people who have now turned into zombies [which I don't recall happening to that one dude in the first film; but I guess they can write whatever they please]; after that battle, they make their way to an underground rave for the undead, and kick some serious ass via some cool strobe light cinematography; some make it, most don't. The remaining survivors make it outside, and then...well..we'll get to that later...
See, now doesn't that seem worth another movie, let alone the price of purchase? Nah, didn't think so.
Overall, FEAST III was alright; it's not as "good" [using that term loosely here] as the second [I've now decided to review II & III together as one cohesive - hahaha - story]. The FEAST universe is one where it seems anything can happen; Patrick and Marcus think something up, and POOF!, it's in the flick. But it sucks that what they thought up for this lackluster third outing is far too ridiculous, and doesn't even enter the realm of fun, really. Everything's just disgusting or too over-the-top to really even care. There are some funny moments, such with the introduction of Jean-Claude Seagal, and then his many misfortunes [such as the Bartender's "operating" sequence, which elicited a laugh, I confess], but those are far and in between. Actually, the opening is sort of funny, but also disappointing. Honey Pie, who had just survived a near fatal hit to the back of the head by a nearby explosion, gets her head chewed off by a monster. It's humorous to the extent that you're thinking, 'Damn, that girl might actually make it out alive.' And then mere seconds later, 'Guess not.' Yes, readers, I get amused by the small things.
The characters all seem to have far more emotion this time around: Lightning (Garcia) is dealing with the pain of losing two loved ones in a very small window of time; Secrets (Putnam) is disgusted with her secret hubby's behavior a few hours earlier involving the death of a baby; while the hubby, Greg Swank (Gulager) also feels guilt over what he did; and Slasher (Payne II), well - he sorta maintains the same emotional state the entire time: "get me the frak out of here!' [very difficult character to read, I daresay; many subtles - and yes, that is sarcasm). Jean-Claude Seagal (Henningsen) brings a smile to my face each time I think about how he enters the film will complete kick-assery authority, and then gets some limbs ate and blown off - poor bastard. But the real scene stealer is professional comedian Josh Blue as the Prophet. Every time that man spoke I nearly giggled - he is such a dweeb, and the true villany of this movie is that he didn't get more screentime. Poor Obi-Wan.
Seeing as how the two sequels were filmed back-to-back, director Gulager doesn't add anything new to the fray that wasn't already around in the second. However, he does something a little inventive, even though it's a tadd confusing here and there. As said above, there's a sequence where the survivors make it to an underground rave - complete with strobe lights! Gulager uses them to great effect: he makes the following fight seem even more intense and brutal, which is only helped by occasional split-second pauses on a action frame. It's sorta cool, but sloppily done here and there - it's difficult to make out what's going on sometimes. [But that sequence is notable for it's brilliant use of Greg Swank's protruding pipe - they make it into a gun by loading a bullet and hitting the pipe with a hammer] Otherwise, I'd be interested in seeing Gulager work on a film not horror related; perhaps broaden ones horizon, eh?
Concerning the much talked about climax, it truly is something that needs to be seen to truly believe that the writers, and even the director, did what they did. It’s insane, and completely off the radar of Randomville; it makes zero sense in the context of the FEAST mythology (if there really is any), but in a world where anything can happen, why not giant robots? Yes, indeed: a giant, skeleton of a robot crushes the remaining survivors save the indestructible Bartender after his proposition that they must all frak and repopulate the human race (!). Brilliant man that I am, I recognize that pictures act better than words, so I thus took the pain-staking liberty of capturing some screen shots from the finale for your viewing pleasure (although I’m sure YouTube or some other video portal has the full finale up to watch):
Now that Marcus and the other dude hopefully have all their crazyness out of their system, I would request that – if they become attached to the inevitable FEAST IV – they would dab a bit more of realism into their flick, and do away with the more cuckoo ‘monster humping’ aspects. Admittedly, it is a little sad that this is what FEAST has reduced itself to: childishly raunchy monster sex humor and a giant ‘effing robot. And when taking this into account, I can understand the fans’ distaste and sour attitude towards FEAST II & III; the first was a fantastic horror piece about a group of strangers banding together to fight seemingly unstoppable monsters, and the following installments seemed to go even further and further away from that basic concept. I understand the creators wanting to branch out and test the waters, but is it too much to ask to keep it grounded in some sane realm of reality?
The FEAST saga will continue, and I will rather stupidly be there to watch the next installments. Honestly, watching the first FEAST alone is more than enough – the sequels don’t really add anything to the mythology, nor will you really miss them if you don’t see ‘em. But if you’re so desperate for more boobs, gore, and monster genitals, FEAST II & III are for you! Here’s just hoping that IV won’t pursue the giant ‘effing robot concept, ‘cuz that’d be a little too weird…unless they’re actually filming IV right now, and plan to coincide its release date with TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, so horror and sci-fi fans can have double the giant ‘effing robots! I wouldn’t put it past ‘em.