by Chris Wood
This Feast is good, gory fun!
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In the third season of Emmy-nominated Project Greenlight, the winning writer team of Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (writers for the upcoming The Midnight Man) served up a horror screenplay called Feast. John Gulager (cinematographer, Vic), an interestingly quirky personality with a family background in acting (Clu Gulager is John’s father and plays the gritty bartender in Feast; he has many other roles to his credit, stemming back to the 1950s), was chosen to direct the Dimension-supported film with a three million dollar budget. During the Bravo-aired series, Mr. Melton and Mr. Dunstan explained in their pitch that utilizing noises and other things that go bump in the night would not only result in more of a scare factor, but properly compliment budget limitations. The concept begs for a tip of the cap to the classic film Jaws (the shark, named “Bruce” by production, didn’t appear until nearly two thirds into the movie) and a feather too boot for the writers, as most things that can make one’s skin crawl usually genesis from what cannot be seen.
The movie opens on a dusty desert road in the parking lot of a bar called The Beer Trap Tavern. Bozo (Balthazar Getty, Ladder 49) strolls into the place, with one hand patting himself on the back for his pool playing skills and his mouth running at speeds his Trans-Am couldn’t catch. His mark is Edgy Cat (Jason Mewes, Clerks). A much less formidable player, who wouldn’t get a second glance from Fast Eddie Felson, Edgy Cat scratches his shot for the eight ball, which adds to the green in Bozo’s pockets.
These characters names are not known because, as they enter the bar, someone calls out their name, as if Norm Peterson from Cheers had ambled in, but because as each character in the film gets their first line or close up head shot, the movie pauses and a few stats (including “name”) are punched up on the screen. Incorporated in their stats is the likelihood of that character making it through the movie without getting killed or listed as extremely sleepy. Most are not given a positive prognosis—like Harely Mom (Diane Ayala Goldner, Vic) whose plan is to rob the fine establishment, but as written, will have her leg chopped off before she can draw her gun. Hot Wheels (Josh Zuckerman, Austin Powers in Goldmember) aptly named as he is handicapped in a wheelchair, is given a question mark as to his longevity with this paraphrased tag: they don’t kill handicapped people in movies, do they?
So as midnight approached, The Beer Trap Tavern looked to be business as usual until Hero (Eric Dane, Open Water 2) bursts through the doors. He was caked in blood, armed and holding the head of some kind of beast/monster. His stats confirmed his name to be “Hero,” and that his survival rate was better than average. Hero was brief, but said there were three other monsters moving fast, and moving their way. He then went to peer out the window and was decapitated by one of the creatures. Predicting survival rates seem to be sub par in this movie. His blood sprayed, in a hose like manner, all over waitress/bar flirt, Honey Pie (Jenny Wade, Rumor Has It). She shrieked, as most might.
Good-clean-fun, the movie was not. It certainly was funny, scary and gory, though. Gory-bloody-fun might be a more appropriate moniker. The filmmaker and writers were savvy as to the movie’s silly-ness, turning the genre on its ear and pulling its leg a bit. “We welcomed the outrageous, the taboo and the dangerous into this story of blue collar survival,” Mr. Dunstan stated. The “outrageous,” is undeniably defined by one line in the film delivered by the village idiot character, Beer Guy (Judah Freidlander, Zoolander) who exclaimed, “Monster cock!” Now one’s mind might not take that to be very outrageous, but the context of the statement was a literal observation. In a race to exit the upstairs office in the bar, a group scrambled to shut a door and one of the creatures on the other end had their genitalia lopped off, which bounced down the stairs and was eventually squashed by Wheels’ wheelchair (you’re welcome).
Beer Guy, probably best known as the guy who hugs everybody in the Dave Matthews video for the song, “Everyday,” provided a good majority of the comic relief and took his lumps as he was puked on by one of the monsters (twice) and had his eye yanked out. But, Coach (Henry Rollins, Heat), a self proclaimed motivational speaker who hides his wedding band in his wallet, was also at the helm of things usually not said in horror movies. For example: Coach volunteered to make a dash for a truck parked out front. Heroine (Navi Rawat, House of Sand and Fog), Hero’s recently widowed wife, is looking out a basement window of the bar to see if the coast is clear. Coach inched up next to her and made a keen observation that no one has died recently and that the run for the truck seems like the opportune moment for someone get killed—e.g.: Coach. Coach also got his pants ripped off by one of the monsters and was reduced to wearing pink sweat pants for the duration.
Mr. Gulager, despite being a first time credited director, has childhood preparations to thank for the horror genre undertaking. “I grew up on the Universal monster films of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s,” Mr. Gulager said. Hollywood is also in the blood for the Gulager family, with his father, Clu, and his grandfather, John (Mr. Gulager was named after his paternal grandfather) a vaudevillian who worked with George M. Cohan (think, “I’m a Yankee doodle dandy…”).
The writing team of Mr. Melton and Mr. Dunstan were fraternity brothers at the University of Iowa. Their idea of monsters attacking a tavern was spawned in Los Angeles in 1999. The tale does not change the world but its fun and fast paced. Most characters have no back story, as if they were jettisoned into this pub in the middle of nowhere. However, there isn’t time for a viewer to ask such questions as characters are ripped to shreds or fighting to survive the night.
The movie will see widespread release near the close of September, just in time for the Halloween season. Feast was stated to be a return to good ole American horror. A stripped down exodus back to the raw punk days of rock and roll or perhaps a straight-up-the-middle fullback rush to the goal line. Nevertheless, it is the type of picture which gathers fodder for after movie chatter with friends. The screening received several rounds of laughter, moments of shock and a hearty round of applause as the credits rolled. The screening room buzzed with comments immediately as the lights went back on.
Chris Wood is a film critic living in New York City.
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