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Review ‘Feast’ (2005) and The American Midnight Movie



Review 'Feast' (2005) and The American Midnight Movie

“Midnight Movie” is a versatile phrase. It’s used interchangeably with “cult film” or “exploitation film,” but those aren’t the only definitions it fits. Sometimes it’s used to indicate a picture’s genre leanings. Usually though, however it’s used, “midnight movie” means you’re in for something fun.

The term was used for the first time in the fifties. There’s more TVs in American households, so demand for programming skyrockets. Then, in 1952, the Screen Actors’ Guild signed the first residuals contracts. So while television studios are looking for new ways to fill time slots, SAG works out all the specifics that allow movies to be rerun on TV. Now, some movies are going to be cheaper to show; usually, the TV studios are buying the cheap rights to horror and B-movies to air late at night. At this time, the FCC regulated programming until around the time kids would go to bed, so only late-night programming blocks permitted “indecent” material. Some local affiliate stations start hiring hosts to present these movies to the past-primetime audiences. Maila Nurmi is the first, when KABC-TV in Los Angeles debuted The Vampira Show in 1954. Other hosts adopt the format to their own personalities as Svengoolie, Joe Bob Briggs, and Elvira all go on to keep the spirit of the midnight movie alive on television.

“Midnight movie” also became a term associated with movie theater screenings in the 60s and 70s. As the American counter-culture becomes more prevalent, theater-owners look for new ways to entice and exploit younger, hipper crowds. In college towns, Fantasia grossed millions in revival screenings beginning in 1969. The Disney musical’s return to theaters is embraced by viewers interested in psychedelia, and is screened late at night to invite a more raucous atmosphere. Association with drug culture becomes another factor in this iteration of midnight movies, as films like Easy Rider, Jodorowsky’s El Topo, and even Half Baked tap into a new, drug-friendly market. Musicals also hit big in these late-night screenings, with Rocky Horror Picture Show being the most notable example. Large crowds of adoring fans embrace this and other movies for their “camp” elements, and even embellish the experience with added audience-participation bits. These cult, midnight-screened films build audiences who will pay to see them again and again. 

Feast 2005 Movie Image

The third and newest definition for what a midnight movie can be comes from movie festivals. Sundance is one of many examples wherein critics and the festival public have been watching tons of movies all day. The festival programmers have to find ways to keep a fatigued audience engaged with their later movies. So, they put exciting genre movies into those slots. Not just run-of-the-mill horror and sci-fi movies. The goal is to keep you awake, so these movies have to be loud, fast-paced, violent, funny: Anything that will keep your attention. The term is embraced outside of the festival circuit, with some studios even creating subsidiaries to market movies as midnight fare.

Feast is a midnight movie. However you define the phrase, this movie belongs to that hour. Preferably, it’s to be viewed at midnight with friends. The bigger the crowd, the better. “Inebriation” is another key phrase for optimal Feast enjoyment. This isn’t a movie for everyone. It’s specific crowd includes the gore fanatic, the drunk and disorderly, the stoned, and those of us just looking for a laugh. The laughs come frequently. The thought-provoking moments of the deep and meaningful? Less so. But don’t worry, leave your concerns at the door, you’re in for a treat.

It’s a hoot. It’s built to be. Like many a good story, Feast begins in, and takes place entirely inside of a bar. We’re introduced to the ensemble cast of bar patrons with title cards featuring names and factoids. We’ve got some archetypal usual suspects who will either play to type or subvert some dominant paradigms. There’s a hero, a biker mom, a born-again Christian, a guy in a wheelchair, a stoner, Jason Mewes, a fat guy, it’s great. And just as soon as we’re introduced to our characters… THEY START GETTING EATEN ALIVE!

Feast 2005 Movie Image 2

Eric Dane from Grey’s Anatomy kicks in the door to tell us there are monsters outside. They’re hungry monsters, and they’re going to break in and start eating everybody. Before he can even give us all the details, we’re whip-cracked into an invasion movie. These slimy bastards are trying to get in every window, every door, every orifice they can, and it’s up to our not-so-good-guys to save the day, and maybe the planet.

One of the strongest things this movie has going for it is its characters. They’re all types. But, they’re not the tired, cliched stereotypes associated with horror movies. Instead, these are all people you’d see in a nowhere bar, late at night, trying to avoid their problems. That aforementioned born-again Christian is none other than Henry Rollins, playing a life coach and at his best. 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander is here too, and the movie feels like it’s made for him.

The movie really relies on what’s happening between these people. It’s a monster movie, for sure, but the movie is really about the interpersonal dilemmas, the way these people work together and against themselves as they try to prevent their doom. It’s a solid script, and this allows the creature ensign to be used sparingly. It totally goes for that Jaws-style less-is-more approach to its vig things with teeth. There are very few times in which the monster/alien/whatevers are the main focus, and in a very Halloween stroke of genius, we’re not even told why the things are here. They’re goopy, they’re gross, they reproduce really quickly, and that’s about all we know. That and they’ve ripped Jason Mewes’ face off.

Feast was the focus of season 3 of HBO’s Project Greenlight, and miraculously, it has grown completely out of its reality-show origins. It’s currently available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime or Apple TV, and I highly recommend watching it in a group setting.