Okay, the actual term for flicks like this is “submarine movies”, because they involve characters confined in a single space for the majority of, if not all, the story. The mighty Joe Bob Briggs came up with “spam in a cabin” to describe The Evil Dead and its progeny, and in the world of horror movies, it is perfect.
You’ve got a dive bar/drinking hole/gas station in the middle of nowhere, or as we call it, West Texas. You have a motley collection of characters, some regulars, some not. And you have a new character barge in the front door with a decapitated monster head, informing everybody that hell’s-a-comin’, and they should board up the windows.
By this time, the movie has taken the express route by way of introducing each character with a freeze frame and a text file telling us their name, occupation, and life expectancy, just in case you weren’t aware you were about to watch a snarky horror comedy.
The thing is, those supers also lie, as this guy who just came in the door is named “Hero” (Eric Dane), and he tells the assemblage in the bar that “I’m the guy that’s gonna save your ass,” just in time for a monster to reach through a nearby window and rip his head off – with a Wilhelm Scream, of course. (The supers also tell us of one character, Beer Guy (Judah Friedlander), “Losers and dorks die first, and he’s both”, and he winds up surviving until the final battle). Then, in the first assault on the bar, a child is killed, and you’ve been served notice that all bets are off and anybody can die.
To its credit, Feast has a pretty impressive cast, including Balthazar Getty as an anti-hero named Bozo, Henry Rollins giving a spot-on performance as a clueless motivational coach, and Jason Mewes as a short-lived character named Edgy Cat, and hey, look at that, Clu Gulagher as Bartender. The actors without significant marquee quality are a solid lot, too, especially Navi Rawat as Heroine and Krista Allen as a waitress appropriately named Tuffy. Movies like this live and die on the quality of their performances, and nobody hits a sour note.
Inevitably, sometimes you’re going to hit the “Come on!” button, but for the most part, the story is reasonably logical, or as logical as you can get with monsters wearing dead animal parts lurking around a desert bar. Where the movie possibly fails – and this is going to depend on the audience – is that it wants to blend in the suspense and character comedy of Tremors with the over-the-top gore of Evil Dead and then add in the gleefully perverse outrageous qualities of Bad Taste or Dead Alive/Braindead (you’re going to have to watch the unrated version, as I did, to get the full effect of that). The thing is, you need a lot of skill and savvy to pull that sort of thing off, and what we have here are some first-time filmmakers.
This is the result of the third go-round for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s reality TV show, Project Greenlight. Writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, and director John Gulagher (Yes, Clu’s son) pitched Feast and made it (maybe the boys were just tired of coming-of-age movies). This team went on to make two DTV sequels, and (urgh) Piranha 3DD. The writers now have four Saw movies to their credit. But this is the first, so it gets a little rough at times. There’s a lot of St. Crispin’s Day speeches that get undercut, and that gets a little old.
Then, you have to be amazed it looks and plays as well as it does. It’s a low-budget affair, but also with some pros in front of, and behind the camera. And the pressure of film production was made even harder under Reality TV circumstances, meaning there were at least two camera crews, and often more, on that crowded set, so there would always be a bright light and camera on you even when you were trying to solve problems.
Horror fans and gore hounds are going to find a lot to like here. Casual viewers, stick with Tremors. Speaking of which…one of the meta threads of Feast involves our group deciding that surviving the night is a lot more important than figuring out where the hell these things came from. Gail Anne Hurd, who executive produced Tremors, said that was the one thing she always caught hell for: not explaining the origin of the graboids. So I thought that was kinda ballsy, and sort of realistic of Feast. Then this trailer goes ahead and gives the backstory the movie never does: