When Feast was first announced as the latest effort from "the producers of Project Greenlight", there was little room for rejoicing. Anyone who saw the sloppy, amateurish Stolen Summer, and Battle of Shaker Heights understood the reasons why. And let's face it - though he might have been a genre geek at heart, John Gulager didn't look like the kind of guy who could pull off a blood soaked modern monster movie. Even with his Tinsel Town lineage - his father is famed character actor Clu Gulager - there was a 'pretender to the throne' quality that made for fine television, but questionable cinematic status. So imagine everyone's surprise when Feast turned out to be the best kind of throwback - a gore drenched descent into '80s style spooky-vision. Now, two sequels later, Gulager is still milking his crazed creature feature for all it's worth. Everything here suggests he should have quit while he was ahead.
Honey Pie is down for the count. Dwarf dynamos Thunder and Lightning have been unsuccessful in getting that Meth head junkie out of the police station. And somewhere in the middle of the street, a baby carcass lies rotting in the hot sun. For the rest of the Feast II survivors, it's time to take action. Granted, Bartender is still sporting a horrible neck wound and used car salesman Greg still has a pipe sticking through his skull. But Biker Queen, Tat Girl, Slasher, and Secrets are obsessed with getting the cop's guns, loading up on ammunition, and blasting their way out of town. Sadly, a couple of cockeyed action men - Sh*tkicker and Jean Claude Seagal - make such a simple idea quite complicated. Eventually, a handicapped prophet named Short Bus Gus comes along to show all the path to righteousness...and escape. He seems skilled at controlling the monsters. Unfortunately, his power doesn't extend to the mutants living beneath the city.
The Feast franchise is an excellent illustration of that age old entertainment maxim - the law of diminishing returns. The first film was a frenetic, claustrophobic piece of perfected schlock. It had blood and a body count that just wouldn't stop. Part II, taking everything a hyperbolic step further, amplified the anarchy and arterial spray, but little else. Now comes The Happy Finish, the supposedly final installment in the killer horndog horror series, and we are once again experiencing the déjà vu of suppressed expectations. At only 70+ minutes, this movie feels like the bloated director's cut extension of the previous sequel. As a matter of fact, director John Gulager could probably take all three films, break out the editorial scissors, and hack this material into a tight two hour masterwork. Instead, we get narrative strands that barely pay off, characters who seemed carved out of Roger Corman's toe-cheese, and enough gallons of grue to keep us from getting cranky - or cognizant.
The Happy Finish is not a bad experience, just a sorely repetitive one. So the monsters like to rape unsuspecting people. Been there, done that. So they have swinging nutsacks that produce a kind of Middle School level of slapstick. Seen it. At any given moment, any character can die - or better yet, be mortally wounded to the point of pushing up daises and yet they will still find a way to stay an active part of the plotline (see The Bartender and The Guy with a Pipe through His Noggin). Blood will flow. Body parts will fly. Bad jokes will be cracked. And somewhere along the line, a new individual will show up, make a stand, and then have his or her cranial contents splashed against the set. Gulager loves to languish in splatter, possessing a symbiotic stance with fellow fright filmmakers Sam Raimi, George Romero, and Peter Jackson. He uses F/X as a punchline, capping off the mayhem in ways that are reminiscent of the self-referential irony in a quasi-comedy like Scream.
But Gulager still suffers from a severe case of over-indulgence. Again, he could have trimmed this entire trio of films into one big bundle of bad-assiness, baby killing and all. We didn't need the whole Short Bus Gus subplot, no matter how fun it is seeing Josh Blue chew up the scenery. The trip underground turns into disco night at a mutant Studio 54 except without all the cocaine - or fun. The ending stays completely within Gulager's 'anything goes' attitude, but a little backstory would be nice. And while his cast is uniformly excellent, there's a lot of implied nepotism, especially when Papa Clu, brother Tom, and wife Diane Goldner get most of the good material. As the only "successful" graduate from the whole Project Greenlight experience, John Gulager deserves a great deal of credit. While other winners turned into arrogant auteurs with nothing new to offer, he spilled the vein juice and let the internal organs fall where they may. As basic b-movie cheese, Feast III: The Happy Finish is rather ripe. In fact, it's almost borderline rancid.
Offered by Genius Products and the Weinstein Company via their horror label Dimension Extreme, this direct-to-DVD production looks pretty good on the home video format. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is clean and colorful, Gulager's decision to desaturate his overall picture quality looking very effective and atmospheric. The details are sharp, and there's some slight grain during the over-cranked sequences. Finally, you'll find the underground material grating since it's often so dark that nothing is quite visible. And yes, greenscreen and CG was used in places, especially to broaden the scope of the setting.
As they do with most of their releases, Genius gives us one aural option, and it's not half bad. The Dolby Digital Stereo 5.1 mix is fairly immersive, especially in the underground sequences, and the dialogue is always discernible. There are even a few fun sonic cues to keep the audience on its feet. Overall, the tech specs here are polished and professional.
Though sparse, the added content available on this DVD provides some crucial insights into Gulager and the overall Feast experience. The director is present in all the bonus features. First, he steps up to offer yet another clever commentary. He is joined by Producer Michael Leahy and writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. Together, they laugh at the lapses in plot logic, criticize the goofball characterization, and joke about their overall bizarre approach to the material. They compliment the cast and groan at an ending which appears to be a combination of purposeful rebellion and a "what do we do now" dilemma. Along with a Gulager EPK that follows his travails post-Greenlight, and a series of trailers, the bonus features here are as much fun - and as much of a letdown - as this part of the Feast franchise.
The original Feast deserved its Recommended rating from DVD Talk's own Ian Jane. Feast II: Sloppy Seconds was given a fair assessment by the site's Justin Felix, though a Rent It seems a tad too harsh in retrospect. This critic would have Recommended it as well. For this third go round, a Skip It would be too tough. But there is not a lot here to require advocating. Therefore, Feast III: The Happy Finish will take on the same score that Mr. Felix offered. This allows viewers the opportunity to experience the film without laying out the $20 bucks that actual ownership mandates. If you love gore, you'll really enjoy the organ grinding offered. If you want a little more substance with your sluice (or conversely, a tad more seriousness with your plaintive post-modern irony), you will have to look elsewhere. The Feast franchise started out as a lot of fun. By the third time, however, the charm is mostly chum.
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