C-

Feast

C-

Feast

Director: John Gulager
Runtime: 88 minutes
Cast: Duane Whitaker

The failures of the Project Greenlight experiment—first Stolen Summer, then The Battle Of Shaker Heights, and now Feast—have been pinned largely on the novice contest winners who were in over their head. And while that's not entirely unfair, given the banality of the scripts and mostly feckless direction, a more substantial chunk of the blame should fall on the producers who set them up for failure. From the start, they've backed conventional Hollywood projects at miniscule budgets, and then diluted the material further by constantly second-guessing the filmmakers. In the end, the films look like the cheaply stitched gowns fashioned during week one of Project Runway, all mangled hemlines and unflattering proportions.

Directed by John Gulager, the deeply eccentric and dysfunctional hero of the third and final season, Feast outdoes the other two Greenlight films mostly by choosing the right genre, because horror films don't have to be all that polished. A good thing, too, since Gulager and his teams cut corners at every turn, covering up their ineptitude with shaky camera moves, crude blasts of music and effects on the soundtrack, and lots of gratuitous gore. That's not much of a problem once monsters descend on its redneck bar setting, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a film with a clumsier beginning; if cinema can be called a language, then Gulager speaks Esperanto. To punch up the dozen-plus introductions, each character gets his or her own freeze-frame and title information, complete with jokey "fun facts" and "life expectancy." It's part of the film's juvenile sensibility that a knowing audience gets to guess who gets to live through the night. (The Deep Blue Sea rule: Characters prone to heroic monologues are usually the first to go.)

Set in a seedy oasis in the middle of the desert, Feast kicks into action when mystery woman Navi Rawat and her husband flee from a pack of fast, vicious, hairy predators with insatiable appetites. Who they are, where they're from, and what they want are never really clear, but the local barflies and waitresses are forced to batten down the hatches and figure out how to combat them. From crude beginnings, Feast settles into a passable slapstick horror comedy and there are times when Gulager shows that he truly is PGL's most gifted alumnus; his shots may not fit together all the time, but they're nicely composed and pulse with some visual energy. Who knows what might have happened if he had the time and the leverage to smooth out the rough edges, but material this junky can only be salvaged for so much scrap.