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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Feeders Part 1 & 2
Feeders Part 1 & 2
Sub Rosa // R // March 30, 2004
List Price: $23.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Bill Gibron | posted May 5, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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Sometimes, goofy is just good enough. Sometimes, the sublimely ridiculous and the campy crappy can balance out into a wonderful experience in amusing mediocre moviemaking. Ed Wood is the classic example of such a mentality. When it came to cinema, this guy was more a savant than a charlatan, neither a pretender to the throne nor the orderly who cleans it. Somehow, in his not-to-sentient mind, Master Wood conceived of stories and dialogue that function as a Rosetta Stone for some form of mental retardation. And yet, when plastered onto celluloid with appalling acting, horrible F/X and lots of borrowed stock footage, the attempted atrocity turned into a lightweight lunacy, a telling trip into this alcoholic cross-dressers private domain. Back in the 80s, Fred Olen Ray and Charles Band held a subliminal contest to see who could churn out the most moldy, yet mildly amusing bits of brazen ballyhoo. Each found a niche and then knifed it to within an inch of its life with lovely losers like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (Ray) and Troll (Band). Recent examples can be as varied as Tempe Video, which occasionally churns out a professional scare flick or two, but mostly has to settle for the delightfully dopey machinations of movies like ChickBoxer, Galaxy of the Dinosaurs and Bloodletting. Well, its time to add the incredibly inane Polonia Brothers (John and Mark) and their partner in paltriness, Jon McBride to the inventory of unintentional horror humorists. Their list of credits just squeals stupidity: Terror Farm? Cannibal Campout? The House That Screamed? Their oeuvre reads like a lost shelf in the backroom of a rarely visited Mom and Pop video store. And yet, there is some fame and a little notoriety surrounding their films; a saga starring Blockbuster, a lame alien invasion movie and a distribution deal. All this and more can be experienced when the double feature DVD of Feeders and Feeders 2: Slay Bells enters your digital domain.

The DVD:
Derek and Bennet are best friends traveling across country. Apparently, their purpose is to make it to the "coast" to see ladies in skimpy bikinis. But they are always stopping so that the wild-haired Derek can take pictures of flood destruction. Little do they know that off in the woods, a spacecraft has landed, depositing dozens of hungry little aliens along the countryside. Their miscreant mission? Feed off the human population. After filleting a fisherman and partaking of a park ranger, the creepy crunchy crawlies head into town, looking for less rustic menu items. When our non-dynamic duo decides to sleep in the great outdoors, they run into the spacemen's leftovers. Then they get chased by another bunch of interstellar food critics. Eventually, the vacant vacationers find a house to hide out in. But the warp-driving diners have been their first. The result is a knockdown, drag out battle royal between muncher and munchee, food and feeder.

Meanwhile, a couple of weeks after the last invasion, it's Christmas time. A family featuring a father, who looks a heck of a lot like Bennett, is preparing for the upcoming festivities not knowing that the Feeders aren't done with their intergalactic buffet. They beam down a few more feeble fiends (including a couple of new beings with Styrofoam heads and beady red eyes) and, before you know it, the red in the holiday season is being painted with blood. Cats are carved for extraterrestrial tidbits, old ladies are larded for lengthy gorging and dispirited priests are probed for their fleshy faith. Eventually, the worm-holers go too far and cause the actual Santa Claus to crash. Luckily, our main character's home is right next to the unexpected landing site. With the help of the featured family, and a little laser power from the elves, Kringle and his newfound friends kick some ET tushy, sending the SETI visitors packing and saving the commercialization celebration for one and all.

Joel and Ethan Coen are known as brothers with a twin eye for cinematic strangeness and innovation. They have made some of the best movies of our filmmaking generation. The Wachowskis have had the pleasure of creating some of the most brilliant and befuddling CGI-candy ever to cross a sci-fi allegory. Their Matrix movies set a benchmark for the mixing of message with mind games. So when the Polonia siblings from Pennsylvania set up their camera carrying shingle and announced their desire to deconstruct Hollywood, who knew they would soon take their place in the never-ending battles of kinship creativity. John and Mark are unlike any other no budget filmmakers in the game. Instead of settling for the typical blood and guts slasher stuff, or focusing on the fissures in the family unit, that most independent moviemakers hawk as resume requirements, these guys have epics written all over their $500 budgets. From the alien invasion aspirations of Feeders to the Xmas dark comedy cavalcade of Feeders 2: Slay Bells, these buoyant brothers, aided by friend and fellow film fanatic Jon McBride, don't want to make tiny expressions of hobby like sci-fi and horror. No, they want to instill as much scope and value as their microscopic dollars will allow. And they almost succeed.

Either in its initial incarnation, a strange sequel, as part of a planned series or simply viewed as separate entities, the Feeders films are some rather fudged up farces. They play like fever dreams for marionettes with all of their hand puppet horse hockey. The acting borders on the baneful; crossing dinner, community college and children's little theater with totally raw sense memorying to almost reach a level of acceptability. From its dirty sock sculpture aliens to its Commodore 64 digital effects, these movies make the cardboard cemeteries of Plan 9, the thankless thespianism of Townies or any of Roger Corman's crappy craft service creatures look like a certain Mr. Spielberg's latest spectacle. If there were ever a set of movies that should have you begging for a box set release of Anson William's greatest star turns, it would be this pair of Pennsylvania Dutch dung heaps. But the strange thing is, despite all the filmic flaws and paint thinner logic, packed inside the Polonia's static shooting style and even more ridiculous randomness, there is a real feeling of...fun. A mostly forgotten word in today's pan and scan, got to make a name for myself home cinematic medium, the Polonia's have discovered the art of making movies for the sheer joy of crafting crappy tales.

It has to be said though that Feeders is a frolic. It's dopey in that kind of pure honest desire to entertain manner of mischief that flows directly from a love of bad b-movies. The Polonias are not artists limited by their proposed pallets. Indeed, what they can best be defined as are wide eyed innocents, looking at the rest of the cinematic world and wondering "why not me." After all, they have a basic mise-en-scene, a manner of getting their movie from Point A to Point B with as little narrative null sets as possible. Their dialogue doesn't reek of the overbaked mini-Tarantino-isms that most modern video vanguards think is mandatory scripting. And they go with the flow of whatever they've got, from a single park setting to aliens that look like freeze dried dog poop. Yes, the best thing about Feeders is the fact that horrible acts of blood and gutting are performed by beasts about the size of a sickly cat and carved out of bird feces and spit. These dehydrated pickle people, these gray-green walking growths are so absolutely hilarious and ridiculous that they rise above their Gremlins meets Ghoulies meets a pipe cleaner ideal and become actual, lovable characters. We cheer for them. We celebrate their alien antics. And we understand clearly that the Polonias are giving us all they have, even down to the straightforward, finesse-less plot involving the flesh eating rotten zucchini. This isn't a forced, faux vision of self-important indulgence. This is seat of your pants party timing in front of the camera, and such a kooky concept really shows.

The same goes for Feeders 2: Slay Bells. Let's face it; any movie that has little kids and crepe paper extraterrestrials ripping the crackers with equal aplomb has got to be worth a viewing. From the funny fart jokes to turning Santa into an ass kicking action hero, this obvious farce is an intentional comedy that still can only work as a slice of unintentional humor. The scripted gags themselves are rather lame and lopsided. But when the little green baseball-headed men show up and giggle like Alvin and the Chipmunks, or when an unlucky cat is turned into abstract art, the snickers come fast and furious. Utilizing excessive flashbacks and a McBride directed interrogation sequence to pad the film, this "Seasons Greetings" mixed with aliens eating is the only natural avenue a Feeders sequel could follow. Something serious would have stunk of staleness. But to place these pint-sized anus probers smack dab in the middle of the most significant holiday in all of merchandising is a stroke of genius...or perhaps, just a stroke. Sure, the acting is just as jaundiced and the movie had to borrow some scenes from a previous Polonia Bros. opus (something called Nightcrawlers) to provide some atmosphere and mayhem. But it's the balance of kiddie film and fright flick that really saves Feeders 2. Where else can you see an elf being eaten by a fake lemur with skin issues?

This is the reason why these films, which are more fetid and fractious than your standard no budget bullspit, make for such wonderful throwback entertainment. In this sanctimonious era of bloated egoism, when everyone thinks that their movie will be the next big thing, the notion of simply creating something for fun and the experience of doing the same seems archaic at best. But the Polonias and McBride believe in the magic of movies; they have their whole life. They've based their maturity around the world of film and forged a special bond with celluloid from a young age. Their desire to realize their internal visions is nothing more than the dreams of children made manifest by adulthood. So what if their directorial style is a pickup shot scattered shoot-a-thon with more angles and ancillary reasons for camera placement than some porn films. Who cares if they can't convince their non-professional actors to emote effectively in front of the camera? Is it really such a shame that their aliens look like brackish breadsticks and that, even though they are flesh eaters, they have immobile mouths? The answer, of course, is yes, but that's beside the point. These guys just want to tell stories – albeit rather lame stories - and have found a way to realize this wish. Maybe most of the animosity flung at these fellows stems from their ability to make a way in an industry that so few can break into. Or maybe it is just the stupid puppet people from Planet X? Who knows?

The Video:
Since it was made nearly a decade ago and shot on several different types of camcorder, the video for Feeders looks like a grab bag of visual do's and don'ts. Sequences, with a rather fey park ranger, flare with so much green ghosting you'd swear the sky was painted with seaweed. When a more professional technology is utilized, the 1.33:1 full screen images are sharp if not altogether special. Lighting is sporadic and night scenes are almost always underlit and dark. Still, there is no artifacting or pixelating to speak of and they manage to keep everything in focus. Feeders 2 is a little better in all departments, but still suffers from limited budget bungles.

The Audio:
Since both movies utilize a synth-based soundtrack extravaganza, it is therefore all you hear in the Dolby Digital Stereo offering. Whenever the pseudo-Gary Numan doodling goes blipping out of the speakers, the voices and folly take a backseat. Then, when the music goes quiet, it's the F/X that makes the most noise. Basically, the dialogue is left for dead last in this muddled mix, but since the characters in either film have very little to say, we really don't miss much. At least the low budget tendency to overmodulate everything is missing here. The distortion levels are low and almost always avoided.

The Extras:
As they did for the recent release of Creep, Sub Rose piles on the special edition elements, perhaps to hide the perfunctory nature of the features. Each film has a commentary track, recorded by the Polonias with Mr. McBride. There is a 70 minute long sit-down with the filmmakers, various behind the scenes production featurettes, a look at the F/X and some of the early CGI used and loads of stills and photos of all aspects of the production. Not bad for a single disc, double feature DVD.

The interviews are divided between the two movies' menus. The first 50 minutes can be found with Feeders and it is a very detailed account of the three men's lives, their love of cinema and the reason they made the movie. They enjoy reminiscing about the shoot and love to remind everyone how this first film was picked up for distribution by Blockbuster (who were then desperate to find any title similar to the hyper-smash hit Independence Day). The Feeders 2 section is a little more unfocused. Since McBride had little to do with the movie, he is mostly there to question the choice of going with a Christmas comedy. The Polonias, on the other hand, take the stroll down recall boulevard with a lot of good-natured ribbing. It has to be said, though: these guys are deadly serious about filmmaking and take their talk very seriously. You would never guess from their temperament that they had merely made some goofy intergalactic glop. To them, the Feeders films are testaments to their talents and they stand proudly behind them.

The commentaries, on the other hand, are a little more apologetic. The brothers tend to dominate the alternative tracks, discussing issues down to miniscule minutia. As Mark says, he can remember everything that happened on the Feeders shoot like it was yesterday (the commentaries were recorded about eight years after the fact) and both Johns add their own interesting insights into the process. The aliens were crafted by Bill Morrison (famous to Tempe Video fans for his involvement in Ozone and other classic craptaculars from the low budget horror house) and everyone remembers seeing them for the first time (they thought they were "neat"). Perhaps the best bits of both narratives are saved for the awkward acting, both by the leads and the ancillary characters in the film. Accents are ridiculed, hairstyles are harped on and, overall, the multiple mistakes are highlighted with hilarious quips. There is a tendency to snicker over in-jokes that only the filmmakers would understand, but overall, both talks are telling and terrific. Along with the wealth of material offered to showcase the rest of the production, these commentaries prove that, while they put on a brave game face, the Polonias know that most fans of their films like them for their "so bad they're camp" capabilities. They never once fool themselves into thinking people actually bought these bundles of bunk as actual epics. But they like to think that they do.

Final Thoughts:
You really have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy the Feeders films. You have to wash all desires for professionalism or proximity to greatness out of your head. You have to remember that these are the illustrated pipedreams of some unschooled hopeful future filmmakers. You need to purge your prejudices and loosen up all the embittered embarrassment you'll feel among your Cinephile friends if they ever found out you enjoyed something other than self-righteous foreign flops about couples coming to terms with their own idiosyncratic insanity. Feeders is fun, if you just give it a chance. In reality, all you have to do is see the petrified interplanetary poopie skipping like mutant muppets across the screen and you're excuses will be inspired. Feeders will become a welcome best friend whose there to comfort your craving for movie cheese like few films can ever achieve. Because, you see, sometimes goofy is good enough. Sometimes, the soul needs a colonic all its own, and nothing says silly like a homemade horror movie. Feeders and Feeders 2: Slay Bells are examples of what is right with no-budget moviemaking, of how individual vision can exist and thrive in even the most cutthroat of industries. While there will be those who scoff at such laudatory laments, the truth is out there. Jon McBride and The Polonia Brothers are some strange cinematic savants. And their inane aliens make the Feeders films dopey delights.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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