Feast (2005)

Feast first published by Film4

Summary: John Gulager’s feature debut is a monster movie with genre-savvy bite to match its big, blood-stained teeth.   

Review: “C’mon, gimme some action!”, yells Bozo (Balthazar Getty), an all-round ‘asshole’ looking for yet another sucker to hustle at pool in the local redneck bar – and action is not long in coming. We already know that one of his fellow drinkers, the tough-as-nails Harley Mom (Diane Goldner), is about to rob the place at gunpoint, but not even she expects the monstrous invasion that will soon leave her truly legless – and there is far worse yet on the way for her and the others, as they must all struggle not to end up someone (or something) else’s dinner. 

A small (and rapidly diminishing) band of survivors, holed up in an isolated location, beleaguered by ravenous creatures, and at war with themselves. It may sound like a nightmare, but genre fans will find themselves right at home in John Gulager’s Feast, faced with a scenario that they have seen many times before, from George A. Romero’s pioneering Night of the Living Dead (1968) – here explicitly referenced by the presence of not-quite-dead folk in the cellar – to The Evil Dead (1981), Dog Soldiers (2002), Identity (2003), 30 Days of Night (2007) and countless other ‘siege horror’ films. Even the bar setting is familiar from Near Dark (1987), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and Shaun of the Dead (2004). 

Still, amidst all the gleeful profanity, gross character stereotyping, outrageous interspecies rape and gory grotesquery, an apparent lack of originality is the one thing that should not cause undue offence here. Feast, you see, has its tongue placed firmly in its razor-sharp teeth as it rambunctiously parodies the very films that it cannibalises – so even if its ingredients seem decidedly pre-chewed, that does not stop Gulager and writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan making a meal of them, and of our genre-bound expectations, along the way. 

The ‘characters’ here are each formally introduced not with actual names but rather with generic labels like Tuffy (Krista Allen), Heroine (Navi Rawat), Grandma (Eileen Ryan), Beer Guy (Judah Friedlander) and Honey Pie (Jenny Wade), while accompanying text lays hilarious (and often misleading) odds on each one’s chances of surviving the night. Hero (Eric Dane), for example, may count ‘kicking ass’ as his occupation, and have a ‘pretty fucking good’ life expectancy, but no sooner has he burst into the bar, announced the “storm of hell” that is coming, and declared, “I’m the guy that’s gonna save your ass!”, than he is grabbed, decapitated and devoured by the fanged family of outsiders, leaving it to lesser mortals to save their own asses. Even the presence of Henry Rollins, normally a guarantee of unrestrained alpha-male action, is here a red herring – for Rollins’ Coach is an urban yuppie ‘motivational speaker’ who fails even in his philandering, and who ‘wears the pants’ only in the sense that he is reduced to donning a pair of ladies’ lurid pink sweats after his own trousers have been gobbled.

In this atmosphere where just about anything goes, everything tends to be fast and furious – at least in the film’s deliriously paced opening third of toothy attacks, vomit meltdowns and general pandemonium. If thereafter things slow down a notch, there are always just about enough comic lines and wildly weird details (with the monsters’ horniness proving far more shocking than their belly-based appetites) to keep things going till the big, bludgeoning finale. Made under the auspices of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon‘s movie-making reality-TV series Project Greenlight (Series 3), Feast is every bit the debut horror feature: immature, cheap, not always well shot and often nasty, but none the worse for these shortcomings, not least because it is all served up with such knowing good humour. For while it may not be a meal suited to all tastes, this dumb-assed gorefest is certainly funny and self-aware enough to please the genre’s fans. 

strap: A monster walks into a bar… in John Gulager’s siege-based creature feature that never forgets its jokey origins

Anton Bitel