"Lovecraftian horror" has become increasingly more mainstream over the past decade or so, and that's largely due to the Cthulhu mythology, the end-of-the-world ominousness built around an enormous winged monster with tentacles dangling from its mouth and underneath its hungry eyes. While the storytelling behind H.P. Lovecraft's "great old ones" might be the most readily identifiable, the term covers a broader spectrum than just twisted examples of biology gone wrong, as the author's brand of storytelling often focused on all the mysteries of the cosmos and the unexplainable terrors that come from its expanses. Closer in the vein of In the Mouth of Madness and From Beyond, short-film creator Henrik Moller's take on unfathomable horrors, Feed the Light, leaves a lot unilluminated while telling its story of a mother's infiltration into the bowels an enigmatic institution in search for her daughter. The novelty of vagueness only goes so far, though, in this drowsy and esoteric science-fiction jaunt.
The name of the game in Feed the Light is secrecy, where Henrik Moller conceals as many truths about what's going on as he can, perhaps in hopes that the details will manifest themselves enough in the characters' actions or in the interpretation of the viewer. While caught up in the search for her daughter, Sara (Lina Sunden) finds herself under the employment of a bizarre institution, whose objectives are not readily observable. As a cleaner, she's allotted a degree of mobility throughout the complex, delving deeper into the bowels of the facility with the shaky approval of another custodial worker (Martin Jirhamn). The longer she's there, the more she discovers about the bizarre happenings of the company she's working for, hinged on the odd minerals one can spot in varied locations. As her search for her daughter and exploration of the area continues, she learns more about the odd metaphysical happenings going on in the facility, ones that hold a grasp on the staff and play with the fabric of time itself.
Feed the Light revolves around harsh grayscale cinematography that emphasizes heavy grain and flickering of the image throughout, injected with scarce but intimidating bursts of red for the sake of creating an unsettling, experimental mood. Nearly all the film takes place between the coarse, dark walls of the facility, while the point-of-view focuses upon Sara's worrisome facial expressions as she copes with both the search for her child and the discovery of the supernatural. Amid this, Feed the Light takes on a leisurely, experiential rhythm that's to be absorbed in a similar manner to the works of Andrei Tarkovsky or David Lynch, with the hopes that the unyielding mysteries of the building and the suspense in pinpointing the daughter will become enough to compensate for incredibly sparse plotting. There's artistry involved in the aesthetic, the raw concentration on the characters, and the methods within which Henrik Moller flirts with the ambiguities of the place reveal an intriguing perspective on science-fiction horror.
The struggle with Feed the Light, and it's quite a struggle, comes in how there isn't a lot of upfront activity or development that takes place across its runtime, and very little information is willingly offered about what's going on in the facility. For a while, navigating the bleak stony environment and observing how Sara adjusts to her eerie surroundings -- which she wasn't exactly planning on infiltrating like this in the first place -- invites curiosity and engages the senses with Moller's piercing, strobing visuals, not unlike the works of the directors previously mentioned. After a time, however, the repetition of the environment and the justifiably unchanging tempo of Sara's mood, constantly in a wide-eyed and teary "deer in headlights" panic, lowers interest levels with the monotony and dramatically weighs down one's patience level with the absence of clear-cut happenings to follow along with. There's something to be respected in a story that relishes an everyday person unearthing a mystery without the help of blatant explanations, but the pacing's so sluggish that it gets lost down one of the facility's many corridors.
Sparse elements of science-fiction and supernatural horror remain in flux during Feed the Light, underscored by harmful enigmatic minerals, shadow creatures that embrace the facility's denizens, and an outlandish grasp on the passage of time. Influences from H.P. Lovecraft's roundabout concepts loom around every corner in appropriately unfathomable fashion, yet they don't form together into a cohesive entrance into the mouth of madness, operating as disparate and deliberately obscure components that end up too absorbed with provoking the audience with their phantasmagoric vagueness. This comes in conflict with the personal narrative involving the pursuit for Sara's daughter and the reasons for her being in this facility, which demands more clarity about the moving parts of Moller's "Lovecraftian" aspirations than what's presented. It's an experience akin to a nightmare, but the execution of Feed the Light leaves its mark as the kind of nightmare someone can ultimately shake off and sleep through instead of tapping into Lovecraft's type of oldest and strongest fear.
Video and Audio:
Feed the Light is a difficult one to gauge on Blu-ray, as it's a deliberately austere visual experience that employs assertive grayscale contrast, hefty film grain, and lots of flickering to accentuate the general aesthetic desired by Henrik Moller. It's almost entirely underground and navigates through often bleak corridors of a stone facility, so one shouldn't expect a traditionally pleasing high-definition experience out of this indie horror flick. One needs to look a bit closer at the elements underneath to pinpoint where the Blu-ray from Intervision steps in to deliver something above and beyond. Creases on lips and around eyes, the stitching on ballcaps and teeth of zippers, and the mesh pattern on the front of gas masks provide nimble details underneath the severity of the footage, alongside the endless stretches of coarsely textured walls. Black levels often crush out details, but that seems to be by design, as the general contrast balance supports ample skin tone gradation and illuminated shadows to latch onto their details. Alongside an exceedingly capable HD bitstream (I observed 25-30 Mbps) and strong emphasis on the dabs of color that actually do spurt into the image, I'd imagine that Feed the Light looks just as the director intended: unpleasantly beautiful.
Somewhat similarly, there's a lot of idiosyncrasies involved with the humming and the scratching and the general claustrophobia of Feed the Light's sound design, which has been encapsulated in a Swedish 2-channel Uncompressed PCM track here. The clarity of the sound effects is sharp enough, hitting appropriately crisp high-end lucidity, while also responding to the mildly muffled and echoic surroundings. Midrange purring of obscure devices in the distance offer a bit of bass response, as does the soundtrack's quasi-Friday the 13th repetition of ominous musical effects. Dialogue is clean, but constantly restrained and lingering in the background with the general muffling of the indie-caliber recorded elements. There isn't a lot of separation across the channels and there's a floaty property to the whole sonic delivery that takes it down a few levels, but there are certainly strength to glean from the limited presentation. The English subtitles are grammatically and contextually fantastic.
A Making of Feed the Light (15:00, 169 HD) featurette goes behind-the-scenes as Henrik Moller and his crew shoot a pivotal, violent sequence from the film, while also cutting away to interviews throughout. The discussion organically flows from the director's early work to perspectives to production values, offering candid -- and color! -- photography of the magic happening. Subtitled in English, it's a strong glimpse at the indie movie-making process, and can be compelling when comparing the color footage to the stark black-and-white photography of the film proper. They've also included a brief interview with Henrik Moller entitled The Lovecraft Influence (3:35, 16x9 HD), in English, where he discusses the obscure underpinnings of the film as well as its evolution from being a much longer serial project to a short feature film. There's also a Trailer (2:24, 16x9 HD).
The Lovecraftian horror admirer in me really, really wants to like Feed the Light, a bizarre and surreal sci-fi mystery centered on a mother searching for her daughter through a warped maze of a facility, a place with ethereal, unfathomable threats and warped perceptions of reality close in on the main character. Creatively harsh black-and-white photography captures the stone-walled surroundings and dim lighting, while inventive production design evokes mystery through shoestring budget means. The story itself lacks impetus, though, meandering through an enigmatic space while the suspense hits an unchanging flatline of activity throughout, unassisted by the repetitious responses from the mother and the narrative's overly insistent desire to be inexplicable in the vein of H.P Lovecraft's work. It's an intriguing watch, worth a Rental, but that's about it.