Franchise Corner Entry: FEAST
FEAST **** USA 2006 Dir: John Gulager 88 mins
The end result of a season-winning script from movie-making reality TV series “Project Greenlight” (shepherded by executive producers Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Wes Craven), this confident directorial debut for Gulager is an energised, frequently hilarious splatter movie in the mould of early Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson. It opens with uproarious freeze-frame, captioned introductions for its key characters, with personal titbits (“Blew Mick Jagger. Recently”) alternating with blatant hints about their fates (“horrifying death in 70 minutes”).
Reliable practical FX master Gary J Tunnicliffe designed the central creatures, a nasty bunch of beasts of unknown origin with claws like ginsu knives and more teeth than a chainsaw. They are just as prone to humping wall-mounted deer heads as they are noshing on limbs, and our feisty, flick-knife-wielding, tank top-wearing heroine proves her mettle when they invade a tavern in which she has taken refuge after a prior attack. Gulager establishes an anything-goes tone from the very start, as guest-star Jason Mewes gets his face ripped off and a precocious kid is indiscriminately eaten. Pulling off the rarely achieved balance of old-school splatter, genuine suspense and knockabout humour, the movie has a fine line in put downs and sarcasm and a great role for the director’s veteran actor dad Clu. In a movie that gives Henry Rollins pink sweatpants and lots of entirely useless motivational speeches, even the fabulous, horny monsters have a tough task stealing the show.
FEAST II: SLOPPY SECONDS *** USA 2008 Dir: John Gulager. 100 mins
With a dog shot repeatedly in its very first scene, FEAST II immediately displays a “Who gives a fuck?” attitude, amping up the rebellious spirit of FEAST with a series of deliberately heartless, tasteless set pieces. Returning from the original’s decimated cast are Jenny Wade’s feisty blonde “Honey Pie” and old-timer Clu Gulager, nursing what appeared to be a very fatal throat wound. FEAST’s creatures have ventured away from the bar to invade the neighbouring town, wreaking havoc in a trailer park, a jail and on the streets before the characters are forced to spend most of the film trapped on a roof in an echo of TREMORS and the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake. Among the new characters are hay-making Mexican midget-wrestlers Thunder & Lightning and a dude named Hobo (signature line: “Who wants to get fingered?”). Clearly a lot of people responded to FEAST’s more outrageous elements, and this takes an infectiously childish, Troma-esque approach as it aspires to out-gross its predecessor on every level. The script still has a sharp ear for great B movie dialogue (“I’m a goddam guillotine looking for a head!” / “I’m a ne’er do well and I have a moustache!”) and offers a show-stopping moment every few minutes : you feel like applauding at the scene in which a tough gal in a leather bra with a “Bad Ass” tattoo on her belly goes apeshit with a hammer in each hand.
Elsewhere, Gulager gleefully trashes rulebooks and taboos, offering a monster-movie first in which everyone is showered in creature-cum spraying from a dead monster’s still-erect dick… and the 21st century’s funniest moment of bad taste splatter in which a smiling baby is thrown into the air, crunchily dropped onto the road below and munched on by said monsters. On the downside, it’s overlong and self-indulgent, and features some really distracting cheap blue-screen work. Also, its mission to be as mean-spirited as possible misfires badly during the uncomfortable sequence in which senior citizen Clu graphically beats up young Honey Pie; although the scene operates with cartoon logic in terms of the (lack of) mortal wounds sustained by the woman, there’s nothing funny about the sight of Gulager bludgeoning her head against an unflushed toilet, elbowing her in the face and hurling her out a second story window. It seems to belong in a different, non-splatstick movie. That said, almost everything else is hilarious – and 98% of scientists agree that any movie in which a man-in-a-suit monster fucks a cat has achieved some kind of classic status.
FEAST III: THE HAPPY FINISH *** USA 2009 Dir: John Gulager. 74 mins
With a 74 minute running time that includes a 5 minute FEAST II recap, it’s obvious that the THE HAPPY FINISH – shot back to back with II – doesn’t have enough plot to sustain itself, but it’s still engagingly off the wall, as the survivors of SLOPPY SECONDS (including the baby killer, who now speaks in subtitled English due to a pipe in his head) join forces with other desperate folks in an increasingly apocalyptic-looking scenario. As before, the emphasis is on bodily fluids and subverting expectations: the trilogy’s most likeable character, Honey Pie, is abruptly beheaded in the first scene, and Gulager’s camera follows the passage of the head as the monster shits it out. As with the enthusiastically offensive II, part III relishes every opportunity to misbehave. An old man literally has the shit kicked out of him. A black dude named “The Slasher” gets arse-fucked through a Glory Hole prior to his stomach exploding due to monster impregnation. Veteran actor Clu Gulager farts, beats up an armless man, quotes from RAMBO III and calls one of his female co-stars a “dim-witted cunt”. Amusing new characters include a would-be action hero named Jean Claude Segal and “Short Bus Gus”. Every few minutes, the script throws a curveball, with sudden, barnstorming, horrible deaths still the series trademark. Although the low-rent CGI elements and the murky sewer backdrop weigh things down, the series is wrapped up in a satisfyingly bizarre fashion, complete with an impromptu giant robot (!) and an on-screen musical number from a Mexican Elvis. As always, Gulager Sr. gets the best lines – notably “You only need legs to kick ass!” Talented FEAST franchise writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton have had their fingers in several other contemporary horror franchises, creating THE COLLECTOR movies, writing the last four SAW films and also bashing out the hilarious PIRANHA 3D / 3DD collective.
Reviews by Steven West