What’s interesting about Feast, a patrons-trapped-in-a-bar-and-forced-to-fight-off-voracious-critters movie from first-time director John Gulager, is that, unless you’ve seen the trailer, you won’t have an earthly as to what these monsters are, exactly, and where on earth they came from. The trailer, however, spells things out quite specifically—for those who prefer their heavy servings of gore unencumbered by plot contrivances you can skip the next tell-all paragraph:
“West Texas: the desert. A weapon has been created. It is undetectable. It is untraceable. It is unstoppable. It is alive. Before it can be used on our enemies it must be tested. On us.”
It’s just curious that this rather forthright explanation is nowhere to be found in the finished film. Our hero (the first of many) just shows up at the bar, bloodied and battered, and tells its motley occupants that a storm o’hell is about to reign down on them and that they’d better start battening down the hatches pronto like. There is some preamble involving a car crash but it goes no further in revealing the imminent threat to this seedy watering hole in the Chihuahuan Desert. The script for Feast, by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, was the winner of the third season of the Ben Affleck/Matt Damon-executive produced documentary series Project Greenlight (in which novice filmmakers vie for a chance to direct a feature film). Perhaps the promotions people felt its coming attraction reel needed to provide a little more backstory.
But anyway. We’re introduced to our delightful dinner guests Hero, Bozo, Harley Mom, Coach, Honey Pie, Tuffy, Edgy Cat, Hot Wheels, Vet, Heroine, Boss Man, Grandma, and Beer Guy bright and early—and somewhat tongue-in-cheekily—via those sepia-toned, Tarantino-esque freeze-frame title boards. You know the type:
Name: Beer Guy.
Occupation: Beer Guy & Part-Time Host at Red Lobster.
Life Expectancy: Losers and Dorks Go First… He’s Both.
These nicely establish the mood, since we quickly know what to expect, especially in terms of the film’s spirited tone. The humor proves diverting, since the mayhem of the creature attacks is shot and edited in such an unvaryingly nutzoid and gut-spilling style that figuring out what’s afoot, or getting a good gander at the monsters themselves, isn’t really an option. Another unexpected blessing is that the women here are a lot quicker to step up to the macho plate than the menfolk. The creatures don’t seem to value equal opportunity filmmaking as much, mind you—they’ll munch on pretty much anything, and do.
Among the name performers in Feast, which spawned two tasty sequels, 2008’s Feast II: Sloppy Seconds and Feast III: The Happy Finish in 2009, are Balthazar Getty (Life Expectancy: Dead By Dawn), Jason Mewes (Life Expectancy: Already Surpassed Expectations), and veteran Clu Gulager, the director’s dad, who tends bar (Life Expectancy: Horrifying Death in 70 Minutes). The unrated version, by the way, is about five seconds longer than the theatrical release–long enough to squeeze in that weapon’s-grade conspiracy preface, perhaps? I wouldn’t count on it.
(c) 2016 David N. Butterworth