Reviews

Feast (2005)

Brian Holcomb

Feast is too knowing and in its own way, too high profile to be cult cinema, but it deserves a look from the genre connoisseur.


Feast

Director: John Gulager
Cast: Navi Rawat, Krista Allen, Balthazar Getty, Judah Friedlander, Jenny Wade, Duane Whitaker, Josh Zuckerman, Eileen Ryan, Clu Gulager, Diane Goldner, Anthony "Treach" Criss, Jason Mewes, Henry Rollins
Distributor: Dimension Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Weinstein Company
First date: 2005
US DVD Release Date: 2006-10-17
Website
Trailer

Now that Project Greenlight has been placed in permanent turnaround, we can observe that train wreck of good intentions and bad execution objectively. It was simply wrong from the start. Making a worthwhile and marketable film while at the same time producing a hit reality series are not exactly compatible goals. The film requires combining the right material with the right talent in order to have any chance at succeeding.

The reality show, however, is driven by a series of well-timed disasters and the voyeuristic display of psychological torture. Theoretically, the best show would feature less-than-competent people attempting to achieve impossible goals. They must then be given increasingly complex tasks outside their reach to insure some kind of eventual breakdown. This is "good" television. Put a clock on it and it's what television execs love to call "appointment" television. Clearly the needs of producing a slow burn human disaster do not provide the right foundation for good filmmaking.

Greenlight's first season was simply dead on arrival. The second season did nothing more than to solidify producer Chris Moore as the default hero of the show. The veteran producer who has to bust heads each week to show these dumb kids how Hollywood makes pictures. The sheer incompetence and paranoid fear exhibited by the directors of Greenlights 1 and 2 made you dislike them instantly even though it was clear they were being cut into fools by the edge of the editor's blade.

By the third season, they finally got it right. Drop the whole "coming of age" dramedy scripts that almost never work to begin with and roll up the sleeves to an old fashioned genre picture. This was how two-thirds of the great filmmakers working today began anyway, toiling long hours under the tutelage of Roger Corman making monster movies, biker pics, and nude nurses-in-Philippine- jail epics. This time, they got a script that was 100 proof drive-in moonshine: Feast a monster movie set in a desert bar written by two fanboys named Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton. Fueled by marathon viewings of The Evil Dead trilogy and every Big-boxed/banned-in-47 country VHS horror flick available, the pair turned in a blood-soaked script that twisted the clichés by assuming the audience had already seen all of these movies as well. That they keep more or less from falling into the trap of complete snarkiness is to their credit. Their worst idea is to introduce each character with not only a complete biographical dossier onscreen but also with each character's supposed life expectancy. This is wit over wisdom and the clearest sign of freshman screenwriting.

However, it's clear that these freshman know the genre well.

Feast uses the classic low budget horror formula of locking a disparate group of characters up in a single location, trapped by the zombies / aliens / demons outside who are all trying to get inside. This time we're at the only bar for what seems to be miles and miles of desert and are quickly introduced to a cast of crazy characters including Jay without Silent Bob, "Emmanuelle" with her clothes on, Henry Rollins hiding his tattoos and Clu Gulager with an earring. These are all characters taken from stock. In fact, they are all given names which are indicative of their functions as ciphers: "Hero", "Heroine", "Tuffy", "Honey Pie", "Beer Guy", etc. Seemingly within seconds of the opening credits, all are quickly fighting for their lives against a horde of sexually driven flesh eating creatures. A third of them are eaten minutes after they are introduced. That's the basic set up. Here's the spike: the direction of John Gulager.

During the series, Gulager came off as a true eccentric, an ill-communicative amateur filmmaker used to doing things his own way like a weekend carpenter in his basement workshop. He also came off as the first filmmaker on the program to exhibit a clue as to how to make a movie. A director with a real zeal in finding out how far the envelope could be pushed before being reminded he was nothing more than a contest winner. Gulager seemed intent on making Feast an actual John Gulager movie. That he was able to cast his wife Diane Goldener and his veteran actor father Clu in the movie is testament to this boundary stretching. At age 47, Gulager was easily the oldest director to have been chosen for Project Greenlight. He seemed more than aware of the ticking clock, of time passing him by like it does to many hopefuls in Hollywood. Being the son of jobbing actors, it's clear Gulager could see the way the Hollywood machine was all about "Feast"ing. Like vampires suckling the most available neck, the "suits" would give nothing without taking. Eternal life for eternal death as an artist reduced to the fringe.

If Feast was his only shot, he would take careful aim. The final product bares this last ditch enthusiasm. A kamikaze attack on the genre mixing Super 8mm, video and every gory trick in the book to go the distance and delight the jaded fan. Gulager ignored the rules and spent his weekends shooting extra shots for inserts and cutaways to give his low budget horror more cinematic bang for the Dimension films buck. It shows. The movie is nothing if not enthusiastically violent and carnivorous. People are chewed up and spit out while Honey Pie (Jenny Wade) gets a Peter North-sized geyser of ejaculatory blood all over her. It's an exclamatory moment within a movie filled with exclamation. This is both good and bad as the energy required to achieve this makes for a fun movie.

It also makes it seem as though it's trying too hard to become an instant cult classic. Cult films are not made, they are born. From the mouth of one fan to another, unearthing something lost and secret, hidden among the mundane. Feast is too knowing and in its own way, too high profile to be born as cult cinema. But it's a reasonable facsimile and as such deserves a look from the genre connoisseur.

The DVD extras include several brief behind the scenes documentaries, five deleted scenes, and a group commentary track that is appropriately done in a frat house style with the quiet Gulager speaking up from time-to-time to voice pride in something odd he snuck by the studio. The lack of any material from the TV series is disappointing but obviously intentional. We'll be seeing that DVD set in the near future.

If nothing else, Feast should provide John Gulager with a solid sample reel to help him land another directing gig and prove that Damon and Affleck's faith in Project Greenlight was not completely wasted. His future will demonstrate just how important this project of faith was to movie history. Think about how different the movies would be today if Sid Sheinberg didn't have faith in the young Steven Spielberg. While Gulager is certainly far from young, he clearly has much promise. It's up to fate whether his talent will meet opportunity with the right material. There's simply no contest for that.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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