Let’s face it, if you haven’t heard about Feast by now, you’ve either been hanging out under a rock or living a life surrounded by a sea of M. Night Shyamalan crapfests. Feast is Project Greenlight’s third attempt at creating a successful film to supplant its inspired television show. As the films director John Gulager so eloquently put it, “The first season they made a coming of age film. The second season they made a…coming of age film. This year if anyone even looks like their coming of age, we eat them!” That’s right reality TV fanboys, this year the winners got to make their very own horror film, and Beelzebub bless ‘em – they made a winner.
For our latest installment, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Chris Moore, the trio behind the series recruited genre vet Wes Craven to help them cull together a quality slash and trash spectacle in the hopes of actually scoring some box office bucks to go along with their behind-the-scenes series. Now you’d think that documenting 9-weeks on the creation of a horror film would pretty much suck all the suspense out of the finished product, but – like in previous years, I watched the show and – like in previous years, I failed to see hardly any filmmaking take place.
Greenlight is notorious for showing you more about the perils of production than the processes. It’s not their fault. No one wants to watch a TV show about happy ass filmmakers and their peppy producers. They want as much mayhem on the little screen, as we do on the big one. What has hampered Greenlight projects before is of no issue here. On-set bickering makes friendly little films like Stolen Summer and The Battle of Shaker Heights seem like downers, but, for horror fans the cast and crew could have sacrificed little Matt Damon to the dark lord and burned what’s left of Bennifer’s career in effigy, and that would’ve only guaranteed an opening night sell out.
For its part, Feast takes place in a seedy roadside bar over the course of a very long night – as the motley assortment of patrons fight off a wild monster clan. To its credit the film spins a satirical love of scary movie clichés in circles before launching itself off a cliff of oozing slime and blood curdling carnage. In fact I can’t even remember the last time I saw so much sanguine scenery – the hue is so prevalent that even the backdrops are bathed in ambers and reds – and the films climatic sequence is shot in a monotone of crimson cloaked cacophony.
But, Feast is not Assault on Precinct version 2.0 or Demon Night redux. It’s seen those films, and it doesn’t give a shit who lived or died. It’s not playing by those rules. This is a film cut down to the barest and most raw elements. The cast needs no names, just assortments of traits and a life expectancy -The Hero, the Heroine, the Bartender and the Bozo – Nameless, faceless, meat for the monster. Feast is anarchy on film, blasting away stereotypes the whole time it’s enforcing them – trashing Hollywood’s formulaic filmmaking and skewering independent cinema at the same time. Believe it or not, the group of people behind this epic battle of bloody excess are very smart and very well versed in the history of the genre. You’d have to love it to wreck it this much.
Is it comedy – Perhaps in the Dante Alighieri, sense of the title. Is it horror – Only in the manner that it owes as much to Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive than it does Carpenter or Craven. For my money, what Gulager and writers Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton have managed to put on screen is nothing short of the bastard son of Herschell Gordon Lewis and John Landis – A self-effacing gore film that revels in its ridiculousness at the same time it’s tearing your throat out.
Unlike the previous Greenlight winners, Feast made a begrudgingly respectable theatrical run, playing in just over a hundred theaters last month – although most sites only ran the film for midnight showings. Now, as it makes its way to DVD, the rest of the country will get the opportunity to take in the Feast that Gulager and company have set for us.
Releasing this month from Dimension Films, Feast arrives in an unrated edition that promises to leave in its fans trembling hands, the cult party movie of the decade. While the bonus materials are pretty standard all around, one can’t help but wonder when Greenlight will follow suit and release its season to DVD – effectively providing nine more hours of footage. First up, the disc contains an audio commentary track from Gulager, Dunston, Melton alongside creature creator Gary Tunnicliffe and producers Joel Soisson & Michael Leahy. It should be noted that for a low budget film Feast has the distinction of recognizing a staggering nineteen producers – I guess Greenlight got everybody but sponsors HP and Coke to cough up the cash for this flick. The commentary is pretty disorganized and filled to the brim with Frat House styled bodily fluid humor, which – even though prevalent in the film – feels a bit chaotic and slightly overzealous on the voice over. Gulager, who series regulars will recognize defines the term tightlipped, remains elusive in the track as well, only offering up bits of interest when describing any number of scenes that the studio told him he could not shoot due to budgetary and creative restraints.
The bonus features are rounded out with a behind-the-scenes featurette, in which the interviews portions have clearly been shot after production of the television show wrapped. In a sense this allows those of us who saw Project Greenlight a bit of a peek into how difficult it can be for first time filmmakers to put together a quality product while serving two very different masters. A second look back, takes a more direct eye on the creature effects make-up of Tunnicliffe, whose vision was responsible for the surprisingly solid look of the beastly beasties. This short piece also contains cast and crew reminisces about the grueling shoot – especially in regards to the copious amounts of bugs and blood that are heaped on Judah Friedlander’s character.
An alternate ending is the highlight of the deleted scenes – even though the theatrical ending works much better. Most of the snippets are extended bits of dialogue and nothing to take note of. Frankly, personal asides and background bits on patrons who can’t even be bothered with actual names are hardly a sticking point in this film – they’re cardboard cutouts that serve as little more than kibble for equally two dimensional monsters. But therein lies the beauty of Feast. It’s unabashedly B-movieness is celebrated in every stinking, soiled frame – self-depreciating without ever resorting to the over analysis of referential horror. It’s easily the best film that Project Greenlight has made, and it seems fitting that – since it is likely the last of that series – it goes out in a bloody orgy of blazing guns and body parts.