So, Feast (John Gulager, 2005) and I have two things in common:
- We are both piles of garbage pretending to be other things. Feast is a pile of cinematic garbage masquerading as a movie, while I am a pile of cinematic garbage masquerading as a functioning human being.
- We may be garbage, but we are deeply self-aware piles of garbage. And that my friends, is what makes both Feast and I so much fun at parties.
Now let me set the record straight: I refer to this movie as garbage in the most loving, reverent way possible. Some of the greatest movies ever made are just piles of fancy cinematic refuse. When I call a movie “garbage,” I’m referring to the fact that it may be campy, deeply unoriginal, vulgar, unnecessarily gory, and just a rehash of tired, old, tropes. But guess what else can be described with literally all of the above words?
Billy-boy made plays using plot structures and themes that have been around since one person got into an argument with another person on a raised platform and called it storytelling. He also was a filthy bastard who played to a “common” audience and made what may in fact be the first recorded “your mom” joke (Titus Andronicus– look the play up if you’re unfamiliar. It involves cannibalism and is mega-gory). At any rate, Billiam took basic plots and buckets of blood and penis jokes and made pure fucking art out of them with his brilliant use of language. Like the shit demon out of Dogma, the Bard coalesced a lot of garbage into one lean, mean, shitty machine.
…Well, that’s actually probably a better allegory for Feast. Because Feast is closer to a literal shit demon than it is to art, whereas Shakespeare’s stuff is pretty great.
Jump in the Trashcan
Feast is garbage, in some respects. As stated earlier, it is not a terribly original movie. The dialogue between the practically 2-D characters is stale and unimaginative. A good chunk of the film is pretty forgettable, and I found myself getting bored. The basic plot (which is….actually just the plot, it’s blindingly simple) is that a bunch of bar-goers must barricade themselves in a dusty honky-tonk after they find themselves randomly under attack from strange, vicious monsters. The plot summary on IMDB is literally just, “Patrons inside a bar are forced to fight monsters.”
That’s it, kids. That is the whole damn movie. It’s simple, and no explanation is given for anything: and I’m not talking nit-picky plot holes, but like pretty basic questions like: “Where did the monsters come from?” Most monster movies attempt to at least superficially answer this question, but not so with Feast. This can certainly be frustrating if you go into Feast looking for an intellectual exercise, because it is not. But Feast knows that it’s not. And that’s what makes it so great. But! We will get to that later, because we are still waist-deep in the midden heap that is Feast.
On a more practical note, the editing in Feast is super jarring at times. Shots are incredibly short, and it often makes it hard to understand what you’re looking at, particularly as the shots are often full of frenzied movement. Certain sequences are brutally fast and hectic, which made comprehension difficult. To be clear, I understand the purpose of this style of editing, and I appreciated it at certain points. However, I’d also like to truly see what’s going on.
Okay, let’s talk guts: this movie is rife with them. And not even tastefully so. I’m talking Monty Python-esque arterial spray. Feast is so goddamned extra with its gore, and some of it is genuinely stomach churning. Think 70s/80s practical FX melty-face shit, but with the benefit of more modern makeup tech. It’s gross. Similarly, it is crude. If a tiny rabid monster-baby enthusiastically humping a stuffed deer head isn’t your type of humor, then stay away from this film. There is one scene that does in fact trump the aforementioned in terms of vulgarity but… we’ll get there. Preview: it also involves humping.
In short, Feast as a film is a thinly veiled excuse for wicked gore, halfhearted dialogue, and senseless violence. It’s campy to the max and uses every crusty trope in the book. I mean, Jesus, might as well name the sexy man “the Hero,” and not bother with names altogether.
If you’ve seen Feast, you know damn well that I am being an asshole, because that is literally what Gulager does. None of the characters have real names. They’re all named after their respective archetypes or roles (Coach, Bozo, etc), and are introduced as such with actual subtitles. These names even occasionally change as the movie advances, poking fun at typical plot progressions in movies of this sort. Feast makes it clear right off the bat that it knows what type of movie it is, and the type of people that are in these sorts of films. This is the poor man’s Tarantino, and it is god damn brilliant.
But it is a TrashCAN, not a TrashCANNOT
(full disclosure, this is joke off of tumblr, as I am not that clever)
In this respect, Feast’s self-awareness is where it becomes more than just a pile of poo, and rather a shit demon. This movie is openly aware of its genre, the expectations this genre produces in its audiences, and how entirely absurd the entire thing is. The first third of this movie takes this self-awareness and fucking runs with it. In fact, Feast takes the self-awareness ball and runs it past the first down line, into the touchdown zone, and then just keeps on running right out the damn stadium and into an entire other sporting event.
Bear with me.Beyond the introduction of names, each character also receives a “life expectancy.” Feast knows that we expect a certain amount of death in a film of this sort, and usually in a specific order. As one character’s “life expectancy,” reads: “losers and dorks go first…He’s both.” I’d go into all of them, but that would ruin the fun for future viewers. This movie may be trash, but it is meta–fucking-trash. Shit, Jason Mewes is in this film and he plays…Jason Mewes. He’s just in the movie, because eh, why the fuck not.
Feast openly explores is genre through the tropes it blatantly exploits, at one point saying that one of the characters would face “horrifying death in 70 minutes,” (read: the approximate length of the film). Of course, these survival estimates aren’t always accurate. For those who intend to watch the film, set a timer from when the Hero first appears (take note of his “Life expectancy”) and track his total screen time. Spoiler alert: it won’t take long.
Clearly, Feast deeply enjoys fucking with the audience. We’ve come to expect that the good looking and badass hero will be the lead in this film, but this assumption is crushed mere minutes after his introduction, leaving the traditional horror movie rejects to deal with this mess. In fact, damn near every traditionally “competent” horror movie archetype doesn’t last long. It’s a grand old time.
Feast uses all of our expectations against us, often killing those who always “survive,” (particularly those held to be traditionally innocent) and it keeps us on our toes. You can’t take anything for granted in this movie, at least for the first third or so. Like I mentioned above, after the first third it gets a little stale as it simply becomes a series of action sequences as the trapped characters try to get out of the bar. These sequences aren’t bad at all- they’re satisfying fight scenes. They’re just very standard, whereas the tone of the first third was intentionally not-standard. It’s a slight tonal shift, but it’s still entertaining.
Back to the flimsiness of the plot. Earlier, I mentioned how no explanation for these monsters is ever given, which can be frustrating to some viewers, and understandably so. However, Feast doesn’t care that you’re confused: even the Hero mentions that he doesn’t know where they come from. At one point, a terrified bar-goer asks “Grandma” if she knows what these creatures are, because she’s “old” and “knows stuff.” She doesn’t, swiftly eliminating the stereotypical “legend/folklore” explanation. The plot of Feast is merely a shell for these “fast,” “nasty,” and “hungry,” creatures to attack. Feast doesn’t try to make the cop-out claim that these creatures are “from space” or something along those lines, but rather cuts the shit and focuses our attention on the monsters. Feast knows why we’re watching this movie: for some scary shit. And so it delivers scary shit, with the superfluous shit trimmed away. This is all about the love of the game people, not the score. Again, this flagrant disregard for things like “exposition” or “plot” is a stumbling block for some viewers; but for those of us who love trashy B-Movies, this is right up our damn alley.
Now, I promised to tell you about another humping scene, and I plan to deliver. There is a scene in this film that almost had me in tears the first time I saw it. It’s disgusting, 6th-grade boy-level type of humor, and it’s also genius. It’s not even a spoiler for anything, (because there is literally no plot to spoil) but this scene may or may not be the worst or best thing I’ve ever seen in a monster movie. If you don’t wanna hear about it and rather experience the glory first hand, I’ll put it under a spoiler cut.
So the group manages to kill a baby monster (the same one who humped the deer head) and hang it outside of bar in a misguided attempt to “scare” the monsters. Apparently these bastards are a family, as one of the monsters is seen tenderly cradling the baby’s body, as though in grief. The monster then of course eats the baby, and then proceeds to bone the other monster in the parking lot of the bar, setting off a car alarm. I shit you not, the lady monster (I’m assuming it’s a lady monster, but I don’t know shit about these monsters and their reproductive systems) then fucking craps out a fresh baby monster. Like I said: disgusting, 6th-grade boy-level type of humor. And it may be my favorite part of this film.
Going on, one thing that I truly do respect about this movie is its use of practical FX. As far as I can tell, everything is done with physical effects. Whether people in suits or the gore, the FX in Feast is top notch. I wish we got more time to focus on them within the film, but even so they look fantastic. The monsters are creepy and don’t feel cookie-cutter, managing to be fresh but not totally outlandish. The gore is also hella nasty and stylized, so major props for that too. Feast may be poking fun at its genre, but it takes its monster seriously and put a lot of work into them.
Results Not Guaranteed
Bottom line: if you come into this movie A) thinking that it is in any way, shape, or form “serious,” or B) have no experience with or affection for the genre this movie is poking fun at, then you will probably be disappointed, and rightly so. After all, the plot is meager and there is little in the way of character development. However, if you love camp, dark comedy, and gratuitous gore, then Feast could be a fun choice for your next night in. It’s not a monster movie per say, but rather a love letter to monster movies. The letter may be written in fake blood and sealed with an unidentifiable piece of an organ, but it is a love letter nonetheless.
And P.S.- Check out this music video. I’d watched it for years before realizing that it was part of a movie. Go figure.
P.P.S- There are apparently two sequels to Feast : Feast II:Sloppy Seconds and Feast III: The Happy Finish. If that doesn’t tell you the tone of this film right off the bat….
Featured Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feast_(2005_film)#/media/File:Feast_(movie_poster).jpg