Richard (Patrick Thompson of Man-Thing) works for the Australian police in Sydney where he and his partner spend their days tracking down perverts on the internet. When his investigation leads him to Germany where he busts a man feeding himself to a cannibal, his world gets a little shaken but he returns home and manages to find it in him to have rough sex with his hot bi-sexual girlfriend, Jesse (the gorgeous Marika Aubrey) anyway. When he gets back to work he stumbles upon a site that seems to cater to those who are into, how shall we say this, big women – not curvy women or voluptuous women or even chubby women but really, really big women – six hundred-pounders and up.
He pokes around the site a little bit and after some clever, if completely unrealistic, hacking tricks he manages to get into it and he starts trying to figure out what it's all about. Why are these women having their vital statistic shown on line? Their pulse rates wouldn't interest your average pervert and Richard clues into the fact that something is wrong here. He tries to get permission from his boss to go to Ohio where the site is being hosted but his boss denies his request and sends him on a leave of absence – it seems Richard is getting too wound up in this case for his own good. When, after a night of particularly rough stuff with the little lady, he wakes up and finds the word 'PIG' written on his chest and his girlfriend nowhere to be found, he figures 'what the Hell' and he books it across the ocean to take on the case and sort this all out, permission be damned.
His investigation leads him to a man named Michael Carter (Alex O'Laughlin, also of Man-Thing) who, after losing his mother at a young age, was raised by a local priest only to be kicked out of the house for reasons best not discussed for fear of spoiling the plot. Richard tracks him down and starts putting the pieces of the puzzle together and what he finds is, in a word, despicable. Carter is into some seriously messed up stuff, and to say that the man has issues would be a vast understatement.
Directed by Brett Leonard, the man behind The Lawnmower Man and, believe it or not, Man-Thing and written by Kieran Galvin Feed plays around with a lot of great ideas but ultimately gets buried in its own hyper-stylized cinematography and post production editing tweaks. The film benefits from some truly repulsive and harrowing scenes but the bleached out colors suck the life out of them sometimes, which has the unfortunate effect of diminishing the scare factor that they should have had and would have had if the picture maintained a more organic look during these set pieces. While the flash editing and wide open photography might have sounded like a good way to give the film a hot and greasy look, instead it kills a lot of the detail that should have made it look rotten and foul.
Adding to the lesser aspects of the film are a few pieces of the script that are just flat out unbelievable. While the scene where Richard approaches the preacher's daughter might have sounded good on paper, the fact that in this day and age she so willfully befriends him and divulges personal information without any fear or suspicion whatsoever is a little too much to swallow. Sure, she's a 'bigger girl' as she says and therefore might appreciate the attention he bestows upon her but she'd have to be a moron in addition to being a little larger than average to tell him everything that she does in this film.
Thankfully the film isn't a complete disaster. The performances from Thompson and in particular O'Laughlin are both great. Thompson brings some genuine angst and frustration to his role and he's fantastic in the finale while O'Laughlin is completely sinister but never over the top in a super-villain sort of way. He's subtle, sneaky, and smart and he makes for a great antagonist to Thompsons's character. Gabby Millgate, who dons a fairly realistic fat suit when she plays Deirdre (one of the women in Carter's care) is also quite good in a role that could have very easily turned into a parody or caricature. When she flips out at the end of the movie you can believe that she is as upset as the story tells her she should be, making the ending all the more disturbing.
The scenes wherein the mystery begins to unfold for Richard as his life falls apart around him are also handled well. While the cut-cut-cut of the editing during these moments would give Russ Meyer and aneurism they do manage to bring a sense of chaos and disorder to these scenes which seems wholly appropriate given what occurs. We see Richard's own perversions and all too human flaws come to light as he finally throws in the towel and follows his gut to do what's right, rather than what his job dictates. It's an interesting comparison that Leonard makes here, and a rather effective one at that.
The highly touted 'gross out' factor of the film isn't quite as intense as the hyperbole on the packaging would have you believe but Feed is definitely not for the faint of heart. A blurb from Fangoria claims 'one of the sickest films I've ever seen' along the top of the cover art but how 'sick' it really is will depend completely on what disturbs you. If it's blood and gore you're after there's really very little hear but if the site of (fake) morbid obesity and/or grotesque eating habits makes you queasy then, yes, Feed might prove upsetting.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer does a pretty good job of bringing the cinematography home and when you take into account the fact that the picture has obviously been manipulated a fair bit in post production, you can't fault the authoring for the bleached out colors that you'll notice in a few scenes – those are supposed to be there. The biggest problem with the picture is that there is some heavy aliasing in spots. It doesn't overpower the image but it is definitely there and you will probably notice it at times. Mpeg compression artifacts show up once or twice but aren't too problematic, and the same thing can be said about edge enhancement. Overall, while not a perfect image, it is an acceptable one.
TLA gives you the choice of watching, or rather listening to Feed in your choice of a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix or a DTS 5.1 Surround Sound mix with optional English subtitles (those who have trouble with Aussie accents can rest easy). With very little difference between the two mixes to report, there's only the slightly noticeable bass levels that give the DTS track the edge. Other than that, both tracks have clean and clear dialogue, great surround usage, and nice channel separation. The musical score, which plays a big part in the effectiveness of a few key scenes, sounds really good and packs quite a bit of punch at times, as do the sound effects.
First up, in terms of supplements, is a selection of ten deleted scenes and an alternate ending. While the deleted scenes were likely cut for pacing reasons as they don't add a whole lot to the core story aside from some more detailed character bits, the alternate ending does put a completely different slant on the final moments of the film and gives things a more conspiratorial edge. While the ending that Leonard chose for the film is the better of the two that were shot, it's still interesting to see this here and it makes you think a little bit.
From there we're treated to four interviews, one a piece with Brett Leonard, stars Alex O'Loughlin and Jack Thompson, and producer Melissa Beauford. These are reasonably interesting despite a few instances of self congratulatory talking head discourse as we get a feel for what it was like on set as well as for some of the post production efforts that went into creating the atmosphere and the mood that Leonard wanted for the film.
Rounding out the supplements is a clip of footage from the film's premiere in Philadelphia, some interesting if rather random behind the scenes footage, and an amusing infomercial parody. Animated menus and chapter stops are also included.
Despite its flaws, and there are a few, Feed is a decent thriller that at least tries something different within the 'cops vs. serial killers' genre. The disc could have looked better but the transfer is acceptable and the audio is handled quite nicely on this release. The supplements add some value and some interest to the package, making this one a very solid rental for the horror movie buff.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.