Thursday, November 02, 2006

Feast sucks

by jaydro
Despite my enthusiasm after having been enthralled by last year's Project Greenlight series, I should have known there are sometimes valid reasons why a film doesn't get released despite that much built-in publicity and what sounded like a marketable premise. As promised I got the Feast DVD and watched it for Hallowe'en, then later watched all the extras and commentary. The film had its moments and numerous quirky touches, but in the end it just didn't work. It tries for that great combination of comedy and horror, but it wasn't funny enough or scary enough (Tremors would be a good example of what they seemed to be shooting for and not reaching). The freeze-frame intros of the characters promise something good, but that turns out to be the most fully-realized part of the film. The extras don't add much, and the commentary (with the director, two screenwriters, and two main producers) is pretty forgettable, though they do point out some of the shortcomings forced on them (a lot of comedy bits were cut to keep the film short and on budget) and remind me that parts of it really don't make sense--a complaint from the test screening was that at a crucial point the audience is confused about what was going on, which is echoed by one of the producers in the commentary, and I never understood quite what was going on with the big plan for escape at one point. I can recommend it as a rental for those who enjoyed the Greenlight TV show and for those who enjoy sitting through horror films. What I'm saying is: the TV series about making the movie was better than the film. I do look forward to seeing more from director John Gulager. One further example of how producer credits in Hollywood are totally broken: seemingly the entire Maloof family (six--count 'em!--six) are credited as executive producers just for ponying up some cash, while Dimension executive Andrew Rona, who we actually saw have some involvement with the film in the Greenlight series, gets no credit (though perhaps by choice).

Also for Hallowe'en I watched the original The Phantom of the Opera. I hadn't seen the complete movie since maybe high school, and I had never seen the full Brownlow restoration of the 1925 print that Turner Classic Movies airs. It really is one of the great films of the silent era. We think of Lon Chaney, Sr. as the Phantom and in his title role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but he really was the Alec Guinness of his day--known for his acting as well as his wearing of makeup.

And: Freaks (1932), which I'd somehow never seen before, is pretty much as I expected, though I was not aware of the full variety of sideshow performers appearing in the film. I'm sure it will all provide fodder for nightmares eventually.

Also: Beast From Haunted Cave (1959), a pretty badly-made C-movie, with actors' dialogue sound level changing as they turn their heads, mismatched lighting, and other amateurish problems, but then comes the truly chilling finale in the cave with the victims of the spider-like monster struggling in their cocoons. Someone at IMDB thought it a clear inspiration for a bit of Alien, and I agree. Also nice to see Michael Forest starring in something other than his many TV guest appearances (like Apollo on Star Trek). I picked this up last year on an el-cheapo two-fer DVD at Target for something like 50 cents (marked down from a dollar). I got five different ones, and I've actually been surprised at the overall quality of the DVDs, though you have to lower your expectations when you know you're dealing with public-domain prints.

And I caught a bit of Doctor X (1932) on TCM--and now I really want to see this film. I don't quite know what the setup was, but seeing a Technicolor version of a lab set that outdoes Frankenstein's, with a mad doctor in appropriate lab coat performing some kind of diabolical experiment to catch a serial murderer by reenacting a murder while he and other suspects sit handcuffed to bolted-down chairs--okay, maybe it doesn't sound like much, but you have to see it.


Blogger Nick said...

So did you get to have a nice party planned around it? A bad horror movie can after all still turn into a fun evening if you've got friends around.

11/02/2006 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

Nope, unfortunately the Fourth Annual Hallowe'en Party Film Festival just didn't happen. The weekend didn't work out, and then no one seemed up for it on a Tuesday night. No black Jell-O jigglers in scary shapes this year. But we did have a good crowd of trick-or-treaters (one of the nice things about this neighborhood, having moved here four years ago from a place that had no trick-or-treaters), and my sweetie did watch the Phantom with me. She promised she'd do House of Dark Shadows, too, but we haven't gotten to that one yet. I just love staying up way too late on Hallowe'en watching horror films. Comes from when I was a kid and the local TV stations would show such movies all night on the 31st.

11/02/2006 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

We saw Phantom last year for a special Halloween showing at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. They had the live orchestra, complete with the huge pipe organ. I had never seen the movie before, so quite an experience. You're probably right about it being one of the great silent films.

11/02/2006 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Count Olaf said...

Off topic...has anyone heard from Chris or LesterG or Stroup or anyone else that seems to have fallen silent for awhile?

11/02/2006 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

has anyone heard from Chris or LesterG or Stroup or anyone else that seems to have fallen silent for awhile?

Thought about the same thing today. I've seen Lester post over at HE, but I don't know about Chris and Alex.

I miss Chris' perverse sense of humor. And he got me to watch Freaks and Geeks, something which I'll be eternally grateful for.

On another sidenote, it is hard to write a review for Volver. And on an even further sidenote, get the drive to write a defence of The Descent.

11/02/2006 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

Just to wrap this up: House of Dark Shadows is one weird movie. It tries to condense the early seasons of the daily soap opera into a story for a movie, but it does it so badly that the first two-thirds of the film come across like a very episodic "previously on 'Dark Shadows'" segment. Lots of very jarring cuts when you're not aware of how much time is supposed to have passed. Seeing the cast on location (rather than in some warehouse in Queens?) was nice, but they retained too much of the soap opera style with slow zoom-in's on one character listening to another talk, or lingering, meaningful close-ups of reactions to a character's exit. And after the extended recap (which likely baffled anyone who had not seen the TV show--I had a hard time following it from my old memory), they suddenly lurch into a climactic confrontation that ends up killing off most of the characters. Very disappointing after hearing about it for so many years.

11/04/2006 03:36:00 PM  

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