A spate of horror films released over the last few years seem to share a common theme: a group of friends or family members are dragged into an area of isolation or seclusion before being subsequently captured, bound, and tortured by culturally deviant men wearing masks. This shared narrative center can be found in Hostel, the Saw movies, Wolf Creek, The Hills Have Eyes, and even Showtime’s recent Master of Horror series. This commonality of plot may be the direct result of 9/11, the war in Iraq, and the dawning fear that anyone can be dragged into the middle of nowhere and beheaded by fanatics, even a family of uppity Americans. There are places you can still go in this world where no one can, or will, save you.
Live Feed is the most recent entry in this swell of cinematic pessimism and physical carnage, a shot-on-digital-video effort that abandons all attempts to entertain, deciding instead to bombard its audience with cruelty and cheap gore in a misguided attempt to provoke a visceral reaction.
Five friends vacationing in China are led to a seedy brothel where they are captured, tortured, and killed by a fat white man in a black vinyl apron and mask for the enjoyment of a demented Chinese businessman. It’s true, Live Feed is obviously dripping with Hostel-afterbirth, but with its garish color scheme and grainy sadism, it also owes a substantial debt to Dario Argento and the superior Evil Dead Trap.
The script seems to have been brainstormed at a Boy Scout Jamboree and features squirm-inducing dialogue. It would be easy to blame the atrocious dialogue on rampant ad-libbing, but the characters deliver their lines in a stilted, unnatural tone that guarantees that this awful writing has actually been memorized. The actors seem to realize that they’ve been handed the verbal equivalent of overripe duck shit; every single character screams their lines in a futile attempt to hold the screen . One expositional scene has a character postulating that this brothel is a headquarters for a Chinese Triad/Japanese Yakuza combo gang intent on recruiting other nefarious gangs from every country on the planet in hopes of achieving “world domination”. You have got to be kidding me.
The friends finally make an attempt to escape from the heinous brothel, but this maneuver doesn’t take place until the last 20 minutes of the movie; for a good portion of Live Feed the audience is resigned to watching characters get tortured and killed in a variety of ways (stapled mouths, forced snake ingestion, breast-stabbings, male genitals that are excised, breaded, and fried, etc). I like some good nudity and gore as much as the next guy, but the low-budget shenanigans featured in Live Feed have been steeped too heavily in cruelty and violence, without the accompanying suspense featured in films such as Hostel and Saw.
Admittedly, the make-up effects were impressive, especially when the budget is taken into consideration, but solid, low-budget gore cannot single-handedly save a movie that appears to have been written by a bunch of 12-year-olds who just watched Hostel at a sleepover. Due to the extreme and creative violence, Live Feed is almost certain to develop a respectable cult following in the months to come, but true horror fans will be able to immediately recognize this hunk of regurgitated nonsense as an amateurish rip-off of the far superior exploitation films that preceded it.