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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Feast (Unrated) (HD DVD) (HD DVD)
Feast (Unrated) (HD DVD) (HD DVD)
The Weinstein Company // Unrated // April 17, 2007 // Region 0
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 19, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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"For the first Project Greenlight movie, they made a coming of age film. And the second one...well, they made a coming of age film. So for the third one, anyone that even looked like they were coming of age, we ate."
- John Gulager; director, Feast

Stop me if you've heard this one: a guy walks into a bar. He's drenched in blood, and holding a shotgun in one hand and the severed head of some kind of monster in the other, our anonymous hero-type bellows that a world of hell is about to swarm into this middle-of-nowhere dive. And for the next hour and change, it does. Fade to black. Roll credits. That's Feast.

Barely breaking the 80 minute mark minus credits, Feast is as swift and brutal as the chainsaw-toothed critters that litter the flick, not bogged down by a rambling backstory, clunky exposition, second-act romances, or awkward flashbacks. The pins are all set up ten minutes in, and the movie spends the next 70 doing nothing but knocking 'em down. Like the '80s spam-in-a-cabin horror flicks that inspired it, Feast isn't exactly big on rich characterization. We both know they're just hanging around long enough to get mutilated, so the movie doesn't even waste time giving 'em names. Instead of shoehorning in exposition explaining who's who, each character has a card that pops up rattling off a generic nickname, a sarcastic 'fun fact', and what his or her odds are of making it out of here alive. That might sound like a cheat, but it works really well and usually manages to get a laugh in the process.

Then again, Feast would be a sprawling two and a half hour epic if it tried to properly introduce everyone. For a movie that's stripped down to bare metal -- there's not a story in the sense of...y'know, a story, and the entire thing takes place in and immediately around the bar -- there are a hell of a lot of characters. The screenplay crams enough people into this out of the way dive that it doesn't have to stick to the stalk-'n-slash rules of the '80s where the cast would s-l-o-w-l-y be picked off one by one. I mean, fifteen minutes in, you lose...what, a third of the cast in one unflinchingly brutal assault? The fifteen or so redshirts include turns by Henry Collins, Krista Allen, Balthazar Getty, Judah Friedlander, Pulp Fiction alum Duane Whitaker, the indescribably cute Jenny Wade, Navi Rawat, Eric Dane, Treach from Naughty by Nature, Jason Mewes playing himself, and veteran actor Clu Gulager as a scene-stealing crusty bartender.

Feast isn't one of those PG-13 faux-horror flicks with a clean-scrubbed cast of barely-twentysomethings from The WB. Nope, this unrated version of the movie is sopping with blood and barrel drums of flesh-corroding slime. Maggots. Mounted deer head humping. Riki-O noggin clapping. A human battering ram. A really aggressive facial. Head lopping. Biker-bomb-fu. Neutering a monster with a rickety wooden door, and that's not even the worst of it for this poor bastard. Scream's style of self-referential, post-modern smirking would take too long, so instead of pointing out horror movie clichés and then marching in lockstep with 'em, Feast flips off all the stale genre conventions every chance it gets. When you wade through enough of these movies, it's dead certain within a couple of minutes who's going to be the final girl trotting triumphantly towards the sunset an hour and a half later before that one last scare, but Feast tosses out the safety net. Yeah, every horror review says something like "anyone can die at anytime", but in Feast, it's actually true. All I do is sit around and watch horror movies, and Feast still continually caught me off-guard. And kept me laughing, too; sporting a deviously dark sense of humor, Feast is as much a black comedy as it is a horror flick.

Proof positive that some good really can come from reality TV, Feast is a hell of a debut from director John Gulager and writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton. Sure, profound insight into the human condition it's not, some of the acting's a little uneven, and it's too heavy on the quick cutting, but who cares? Feast is exactly the movie it sets out to be: a blood-drenched good time. Highly Recommended.

Video: Aside from a few bits shot on Super 8 and Super 16 film, the bulk of Feast's scope photography was tackled with high-definition video cameras. The resulting 2.39:1 AVC-encoded image has all the calling cards of a quick-'n-dirty digital shoot -- buzzing video noise, flattened contrast, and a tinge of softness -- but it's a low-budget aesthetic that works for this blood-drenched love letter to '80s horror. I didn't spot any authoring hiccups or other glaring flaws, and the lower-budget photography means Feast looks about as good as it probably ever well. Definitely a step up from DVD but not exactly the kind of disc you whip out to show off your overpriced home theater rig.

Audio: Like pretty much all of The Weinstein Company's HD DVDs these days, Feast serves up its audio in both Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and lossless Dolby TrueHD. Switching back and forth between the two tracks, there was a noticeable difference between them, although it wasn't stark enough for me to prefer one over the other. Still, it's always nice to see a studio embrace lossless audio. The recording of the dialogue is rawer than usual and can be a little tough to make out every once in a while, but it generally comes through alright, even when the subwoofer is rattling. Like most modern horror flicks, the mix is pretty aggressive, with chaos roaring across all of the channels and a slew of discrete effects fleshing out a sense of claustrophobia and impending doom as the beasties surround the bar. A little rough around the edges but still very nicely done.

Other audio options include a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 dub in French and subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: Feast sports the same set of extras as last year's DVD, along with a newly-produced "where are they now?" followup. All of the additional footage is provided in standard definition and in anamorphic widescreen.

Unlike the overwhelming majority of making-of featurettes, the 11 minute clip on this disc ::gasp!:: actually delves into the making of the film, teeming with personality and ditching the extended trailer approach of most of these things. Pretty much all of the key cast and crew are given a chance to chime in, noting how an already difficult shoot was made even tougher with the ever-present Project Greenlight cameras following everyone around, shooting some inserts on their own time despite the studio giving them a thumbs-down, and scaling down an ambitious script that would've carried a $40 million price tag otherwise.

Another featurette (10 min.) takes a look at Gary Tunnicliffe and his extensive make-up effects work on Feast. It's more of a personality piece than a technical demonstration, but Tunnicliffe is such a likeable guy that that's perfectly okay. A small army of actors and producers talk about working with Tunnicliffe, who follows up with a brief rundown of what drew him towards latex guts and grue. Something like half the featurette revolves around stage blood, and that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

"A Small Feast of Outtakes" (3 min.) is a better than average gag reel, showing more than just goofy faces and blown lines behind wacky carnival music, and if you've ever wondered what Tunnicliffe had shoved into that beastie's severed pecker, now you have a chance to find out. Along for the ride are five deleted scenes that run a little under eight minutes in total, including a boner gag, a couple of slightly extended character moments, one last glimpse of a quickly-offed victim, and an alternate ending that brings Feast to a similar but more conventional close.

This HD DVD also includes a particularly well done "where are they now?" set of interviews catching up with all three finalists in the running to direct Feast, along with the movie's two screenwriters. The writers and each of the runner-ups get around 6 minutes a piece to talk about the somewhat humbling experience of having themselves and their work savaged on national TV, as well as touching on some of their other experiences during the process and what they've been up to since. Eventual winner John Gulager gets a couple more minutes than the other guys, and the exceedingly personable director candidly discusses his time on the series as well as his work as a first-time feature filmmaker.

Saving the best for last, director John Gulager, producers Mike Leahy and Joel Soisson, writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, and creature effects-slash-makeup designer Gary Tunnicliffe piled into the booth to record a commentary track that's nearly as much of a blast as the movie they made. The six of 'em laugh and quip their way through the entire track, and even though it's not one of those intensely technical discussions where they ramble on about focal length or debate which film stock works best under what lighting, it's a hell of a lot of fun. A few random notes I jotted down include grabbing a set leftover from Wes Craven's Cursed, filming the first big splatter-fest over the course of the entire shoot, how they came up with the creatures' distinctive shriek, paring down a 135 page script that actually had a shhhh!-top-secret backstory for the monsters, and likening practical, CGI-free effects to sexual intercourse.

Like the movie itself, this HD DVD of Feast isn't bogged down by any filler, and it's one of those increasingly rare special editions where everything is worth a look.

Conclusion: Walk into a theater today and horror is a bleak, nihilistic onslaught of torture and sadism. That has its place, sure, but Feast is a nod to the '80s horror flicks I was obsessed with growing up, back when the genre was still allowed to be fun. This balls-out, blood-drenched splatter-comedy is at the very least an essential rental for fans of the genre, and Feast has enough worthwhile extras and an endlessly rewatchable, half-buzzed midnight movie vibe to it that this HD DVD is worth shelling out twenty bucks to buy too. Highly Recommended.
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