Feast DVD Review
Written by Eric "The Hitman" Strauss
DVD released by Dimension Home Entertainment
Directed by John Gulager
Written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan
2005, Region 1 (NTSC), 86 minutes, Unrated
DVD released on October 17th, 2006
Balthazar Getty as Bozo
Henry Rollins as Coach
Navi Rawat as Heroine
Judah Friedlander as Beer Guy
Josh Zuckerman as Hot Wheels
Jason Mewes as Edgy Cat
Jenny Wade as Honey Pie
with Krista Allen as Tuffy
nd Clu Gulager as Bartender
For the third season of the TV filmmaking contest "Project Greenlight," the producers — including Chris Moore, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck — decided to actually try to make some money instead of a coming-of-age tale that nobody wanted to see.
For those who aren't familiar with the Bravo (and formerly HBO) reality series — and judging from the ratings, many aren't — the Moore/Damon/Afflect group chose an aspiring writer and director and "green-lit" their dream project on a million-dollar budget. Then, the cameras role throughout the filmmaking.
The first two seasons resulted in Stolen Summer and The Battle of Shaker Heights, both of which lost money spectacularly.
So the third time around, the producers opted for the tried-and-true genre piece: A horror film called Feast that centered around a group of off-kilter characters (a biker, an actor, an old lady, the local ne'er-do-well, etc.) trapped in a bar surrounded by rampaging monsters that are trying to make them the main course.
The chosen script, written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, takes traditional horror clichés and turns them on their ear — which makes for a mix of genuine scares and gore, and over-the-top comedy. One of the better-remembered moments from the series may have been fellow executive producer Wes Craven's opposition to the script and a frustrated Damon arguing that if the king of horror hated it, how good could it be?
(Clearly, Damon isn't familiar with some of the schlock Craven has put his name on. Wes Craven Presents Mind Ripper, anyone?)
The chosen director, meanwhile, was John Gulager, son of veteran character actor Clu (The Return of the Living Dead), and the "Greenlight" show suggested he was a kind of mad genius who lacked the genuine support of the people who hired him — and may well not have deserved it.
Despite all that off-screen chaos, the bottom line is, whatever it took — and that may include some genuine miracle-working from editor Kirk Morri — Feast works. Even if it, like its predecessors, wasn't the hit "Greenlight" was hoping for.
The quirk that best sums up the film comes early: As each character appears, a title card full of "fun facts" shows up on screen by way of introduction. To wit:
Occupation: Wear tanktop, tote shotgun, save day.
Life expectancy: Hopefully better than the last hero.
Of course, the film then turns these comments upside-down, with some "life expectancies" not even close and others, in retrospect, surprisingly true.
The casting was one of the more controversial aspects of the "Greenlight" show, as director Gulager seemingly wanted to cast literally everyone he knew — dad Clu is there as the bartender, as is wife Diane Goldner (Satanic) — and the producers wanted the biggest names they could get. But the acting as a whole is solid, with Krista Allen (Emmanuelle in Space) and Balthazar Getty (Lost Highway) providing a strong center, and Henry Rollins (Heat) playing against type as a dorky motivational speaker. Judah Friedlander (Zoolander) gets most of the laughs as a put-upon loser, while relative newcomer Jenny Wade provides the eye candy ("She made it! Piece of Ass made it!"). Even the much-maligned Navi Rawat ("The O.C.") isn't nearly as bad as her reputation.
Feast is not without its troublesome points. The frenetic editing helps the film immensely, but also works well with the effects, highlighting the best of the grue and downplaying the questionable bits. Those, unfortunately, include the costumes of the mysterious killer monsters, and as a result, you never really get a good look at what's hunting the bar patrons.
In addition, the tone may not satisfy horror purists — Feast isn't Shaun of the Dead, but it has a running tongue-in-cheek undertone. Of course, part of the humor stems from the contrast between the humor and the hardcore horror effects, which includes decapitations and other appendage severing, monster castration and one character who basically gets swallowed whole. Effects man Gary J. Tunnicliffe literally supplies buckets of blood, and deserves a lot of credit.
And, whatever his flaws, John Gulager does his job, skillfully mixing the horror and humor and, above all, making Feast an entertaining film.
Video and Audio:
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image is soft and grainy, perhaps a reflection of the source film and its relatively low budget. It's a dark film, and probably isn't as clear as it could be. But blacks are fairly solid, and the film doesn't have too many colors to turn the digital image haywire. In a way, the image suits a glorified B-movie — and the Dimension disc certainly surpasses most independent horror DVDs — but it isn't reference quality by any means.
The English Dolby 5.1 audio, on the other hand, is a real asset for the film, making strong use of the surrounds to match the frenzied imagery on screen. There's something running around the bar a lot of the time, and the mix conveys the claustrophobia and fear well. And in the (few) quieter scenes, everything remains professionally done.
English closed captions and Spanish subtitles are included.
The primary extra is an audio commentary with Gulager, Dunstan and Melton, Tunnicliffe and producers Mike Leahy and Joel Soisson. There is some interesting information, but for the most part, the large number of participants means it's pretty easy for things to go off the rails as somebody digresses or gets too concerned with the jokes. As a result, the commentary isn't nearly as good as it might be, given the potential subjects, from filmmaking to the "Greenlight" experience.
"Horror Under the Spotlight: Making Feast" and "The Blood and Guts of Gary Tunnicliffe" are a pair of 10-minute featurettes, one mixing typical behind-the-scenes and interviews with an overview of the film's relationship with "Project Greenlight," and the other a look at the special effects.
"Horror Under the Spotlight" doesn't stray far from the press-kit norm, but it's got a few interesting moments and unless "Greenlight 3" ever sees the light of day on DVD, it's the only chance fans will have to see Dunstan, Gulager and Melton discussing the project again. "Blood and Guts" is also typical of the type, but it's interesting by its very nature.
Five "deleted scenes" are mostly extended versions of ones in the film, running about 8 minutes in total. The two that stand out are one with Tuffy and her son that's sweet, but way too serious for the rest of the film and an alternate ending that's also more serious and Hollywood-traditional than the one Gulager used.
A blooper reel has its heart in the right place, but isn't really that funny. There is also a brief promo for the metal soundtrack, but no trailer for the film itself.
Let's be honest: The ultimate "special feature" for this film would be the "Project Greenlight" season that spawned it, which would in essence served as a 12-hour making-of documentary. But that's not here — the third season isn't out anywhere, in fact — and that means as far as special features are concerned, there isn't really much here at all.
Fans of horror comedy have had a good couple of years, with Feast, Slither and Snakes on a Plane getting plenty of buzz, not to mention the seminal Shaun of the Dead changing the horror landscape. Feast didn't get good reviews during its brief theatrical run, but it's a film that should find some success and win some fans on DVD over the years. Of course, it hasn't done well enough to see either a DVD release of the "Greenlight" season that spawned it or the announcement of any "Greenlight 4."
(Weapons of Choice: Mitsubishi 1080 series 42" TV, Sony DVP-CX995V DVD player, Bose Lifestyle 25 Series II speakers, Apple iBook G4 and, in certain situations, Panasonic 27" TV, Panasonic A110 DVD player and Bose TriPort headphones.)
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