Back in the winter of 2009 I found myself in Texas for what was supposed to be a fun-filled vacation catching up with family and friends. As a bonus, I was house-sitting for a pal who was going out of town for a 10 day stretch. So I had all the benefits of catching up with family without having to actually, you know, stay with family. Unfortunately I almost immediately caught one of those brutal colds where you wake up one day feeling like an ashtray (even though you don’t smoke). The end result? A few days alone in a strange place with good whiskey and “Ghost Adventures”. Lots and LOTS of “Ghost Adventures”.
I’d never seen the show before, I’d seen the “South Park” parody of these kinds of things (I’ve still never seen “Ghost Hunters” but I’m assuming it’s in the same wheelhouse, perhaps a touch less Ed Hardy) but not the real enchilada. At the very outset of the Travel Channel marathon running that weekend I was taken aback by just how much the “South Park” guys had really nailed it. A bunch of dudes running around screaming “Holy Sh*t!” every damn time the house settled.
I couldn’t take it seriously. Who could? However, as my body temperature oscillated, I began to find myself legitimately spooked (I’m assuming in my more fevered moments). Needless to say, the weekend made an impression, albeit one I hadn’t quite thought about until about 2 minutes into watching The Feed.
In those first two minutes I felt something almost akin to a wave of relief when I realized that co-writer/director Steve Gibson had actually pretty much nailed the tone of these things as well. It’s not a spoof (though it’s not without humor), but one of The Feed’s modest charms is that I immediately felt like I was watching one of these shows again. From the introductory setup covering past hauntings, using appropriated footage from a faux-local media outlet interviewing various townsfolk, back to the host of the show’s statement of intent it really feels pretty much like watching an episode of one of those shows. Except maybe this time you’ll actually see a ghost.
The Feed is about a team of “Ghost Chasers”, led by Brian (Chip Facka, seemingly channeling Kinsey from “Mad Men”), who are conducting their 4th anniversary show as a live special from inside the historic Brenway Theater along with the theater’s new manager. One thing established early on is that the Brenway has the living f*ck haunted out of it. The original projectionist died in a fire, and ever since then there’s been some weird sh*t going down. A girl had her jaw ripped off in the bathroom, a family of three was butchered in the basement – heck, the movie even starts off with a bosomy half naked poltergeist falling down the stairs in a crowded lobby (which is, intentionally or not, hilarious).
You can pretty much guess where the movie goes from here since it’s structured pretty much like an episode of “Ghost Adventures” would be if they could ever manage to get anything to happen. It starts off mild, then poor psychic Veronica (Jody Horn), who has been brought in by the team, starts getting scratched and bitten. There’s a somewhat interesting reveal about the original owner, and then things get intense as things escalate with more than a few nods to J-Horror.
Look, I’m not saying this thing is a masterpiece. Even though its slight production values sort of help sell the “Ghost Adventures” vibe, this is basically a found footage take on that genre of TV, it doesn’t entirely escape the traps of the shows it’s referencing. Even though more happens in The Feed than whatever goes down on the Travel or Syfy channels, it’s still not enough. At a scant 73 minutes there are still some pacing issues. While none of the performances really bothered me (something of a miracle since it seems to be most of these guys’ first film credit), the night vision tableau is so monochromatic I could have really done with at least one character that really popped. In Brian, the film also seems to have something to say about the narcissistic nature of these hosts in general, but it’s not fully developed enough to really register. Obviously the effects are iffy, but I can’t really lay the blame for that at the feet of anything other than the micro-budget.
Also – like a TV show – The Feed has commercial breaks, which almost take it into Kentucky Fried Movie territory at times, except I can’t tell if most of these are supposed to be outright funny or satirical or what. There’s one with Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman that’s obviously trying to skewer shady personal injury attorneys, but the rest fall just a notch shy of where they need to be to really make an impression other than interrupting the narrative.
The Feed certainly isn’t boring, but like I said its charms are modest. I usually hate this kind of soft recommend, but “it’s really good for what it is”. There are a few genuinely creepy images and it’s certainly entertaining. I just wish I had actually been scared or spooked at some point. Maybe I’ll pop it in the next time I have a fever and see if that works.
The copy of The Feed I received is a Two-Disc version that will be for sale at various convention appearances.
Two commentary tracks. One with the cast and crew and one with Co-Writer/Director Steve Gibson and Producer Jessica Paquin. Of these two the latter is far more informative (this was apparently a Kickstarter project and Chip Facka is based on one of the “Ghost Hunters, notone of the Ghost Adventures” guys).
*From Campus Theatre To Brenway Theatre: Transforming The Set – Kind of slight, though made charming enough by explaining all of the low-budget techniques used to hide all brand names/movie posters in the existing location.
*How We Spent Our Summer (Behind The Scenes And On Location) – Pretty much a standard look behind the scenes.
*Lloyd Kaufman At Troma Studios – A behind the scenes look at filming Kaufman’s commercial segment in front of a green screen in his office.
*Makeup (Bringing The Rothchild Hybrid To Life) – Producer Jessica Paquin’s makeup transformation into one of the Brenway’s poltergeists. A pretty cool look at low budget latex work.
*Makeup (Creating “Jawgirl”) – A look at transforming the seemingly adorable Melissa Mabus into the more horrific “Jawgirl”. More impressive than the other makeup featurette, even though it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s still fun to see old fashioned plaster and prosthetics used on a shoestring.
*”The Gold Bug” – The Feed team’s first short film.
*Cast and Crew Bios
*Theatrical Trailer – About what you’d expect.