Today, I've seen two independent films.
The first, "Eve of Understanding," is currently on the film festival circuit and actively seeking a distribution deal. It was filmed for the astonishingly low sum of $20,000.
The second, "Feast," is the most recent winner of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's "Project Greenlight," an annual project/competition designed to provide the opportunity for a first-time film-maker to bring his vision to life.
Thus far, "Project Greenlight," has been almost exclusively a shining example of all that is wrong with American cinema. How could two young men, Oscar winners for Best Screenplay, be so inadequate in choosing potentially viable scripts and directors?
The first winner, "Stolen Summer," starred Aidan Quinn and Bonnie Hunt in a film that went in and out of theatres quickly despite a guaranteed $1 million production budget and distribution deal. The film wasn't a disaster, but neither was it particularly memorable.
Then came "The Battle of Shaker Heights," a mind-numbingly bad film starring Amy Smart and a few others who shall remain nameless.
Now, there's "Feast."
Now, before I go on, let me guarantee you that there is, in fact, an audience for "Feast." Those of you who embrace cheesy horror flicks are likely to find "Feast" moderately enjoyable. It features a little bit of "Dawn of the Dead," a little bit of "Evil Dead," a little bit of "Tremors" and even a bit of "Demons at the Door."
If any of the above four films appeal to you, then you might do well to ignore my overall rating and simply read through my description of the film to decide whether or not it fits your taste.
According to the film's website, "Feast" centers on a motley crew of people gathered at an isolated bar in the desert who encounter monsters who are hungry and seem to be pissed off. According to the website, these "monsters" are the result of a government project to develop a secret weapon to use in war. This "weapon" must first be used on people to test its effectiveness.
Now, the weird thing is that none of this is ever mentioned in the film. Has the storyline been edited and the website never changed? At no point in the film is the government, an experiment or a weapon ever mentioned.
Perhaps changing the website is not in the budget?
Instead, we are left with a very basic storyline presented in an introductory group of scenes that is moderately humorous, definitely tongue-in-cheek and a strong indicator of the film to come. We are introduced, through funny graphics, to each character and their roles within the evening's events. As we conclude our introduction, in comes the first Hero (Eric Dane).
He quickly takes charge by stating by basically saying "Do as I say and we'll survive." About 30 seconds later, he is dead.
We are then introduced to a wide assortment of bar low-lifes ranging from the barkeeper (Clu Gulager, long-time actor and director's dad), a Harley mom (Diana Goldner, the director's wife), a war vet (Anthony Criss), Grandma (Eileen Ryan), a sweet waitress (Jennifer Wade), the beer guy (Judah Friedlander), a Bozo (Balthazar Getty), a disabled guy (Josh Zuckerman) and his brother (Tyler Jones), the boss (Duane Whitaker), the hero's wife (Navi Rawat), a tough girl (Krista Allen), the poor man's Tony Robbins (Henry Rollins) and an edgy cat (Jason Mewes).
To expand upon the film's basic storyline is pointless and irrelevant. The point of "Feast" is horror, gore and humor. "Feast" is gory, with eye sockets pulled out, limbs lost, exploding chests, tortured monsters and buckets and buckets of blood.
"Feast" also has, much to its advantage, a tongue-in-cheek approach that is constantly present and keeps the proceedings light, funny and silly throughout the film. "Feast" is lacking in terms of true horror, even for a relative horror novice like myself. At no point did I feel a need to look down, look away, jump, cringe or feel anxious, let alone afraid.
The script feels remarkably dumbed down, with dialogue that often doesn't seem to fit the characters and, in the case of Rollins' motivational speaker, is completely unconvincing. As a longtime spoken word artist, unconvincing is not a word I would ever associate with Henry Rollins. The man screams authenticity, and several times I found myself looking at him thinking "Do you buy any of this? At all?"
Fortunately, for every few awkward lines it seems like we get a joke or two that connects. Rollins, again, seemed able to communicate the sheer lunacy of his character in a most awful situation.
Offering particularly strong performances are Judah Friedlander as a beer guy who finds himself with some rather extraordinary hygiene issues after being attacked by the monsters, Krista Allen as a take charge kind of girl, Clu Gulager as the barkeeper and Jennifer Wade as a rather adorable waitress.
Assuming that "Feast" has the traditional $1 million budget, the special effects are remarkably cheesy and ineffective. This is especially true with the monsters themselves, and the attacks often more closely resemble a Boll film than even the cheesiest of the "Tremors" films. Additionally, the film's editing is, at times, inconsistent and choppy with blocking that limits the views that could shock, scare or horrify.
The film, based upon the winning script by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, is difficult decipher and it's hard to tell the original intention considering the difference between the film's website and the finished product. Gulager's direction, while not particularly memorable, does pace the action well and balances the humor with the action quite nicely.
"Feast" is scheduled to go into limited release over the next week, particularly in late night showings. With a DVD release scheduled for October 17th and only 30-35 present during tonight's free showing here in Indianapolis, it appears that "Feast" may help seal the fate of Project Greenlight, a noble idea that has never really resulted in a quality project even close to Affleck and Damon's "Good Will Hunting" script.
While an overall disappointment as a film, "Feast" may very well prove appetizing for those who enjoy Troma type flicks and/or simply "B" horror movies. With over-the-top gore, goofy action scenes, a fun cast and a tongue-in-cheek attitude "Feast," as one exiting audience member said is "Dawn of the Dead for the Mallrats crowd."
I couldn't have said it better myself.