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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

THE FEEDING -- movie review by porfle

After some pretty cool opening titles that make the movie look more expensive than it is and give us a sample of the full-bodied musical score that is one of its main assets, THE FEEDING (2006) fades in to a couple of redneck hunters getting wasted by a large, hairy creature out in the woods.  It's no big loss, since the guys playing them aren't very good actors anyway, but it does let us know that there's something really big, dangerous, and pissed-off out there.

Ace game warden Jack Driscoll (where have we heard that name before?) is called in to coordinate the park rangers and get all the campers off the mountain so they can go after the beast, which is believed to be a large mountain lion or wolf with an anger management problem.  Not-so-ace game warden Amy gets on Jack's bad side right off the bat by showing up late for his briefing, setting up their mildly confrontational relationship as they head off into the woods together in his jeep. 

Meanwhile, there's a group of horny, obnoxious teenagers (surprise!) who are also making their way into the woods on foot for a fun-filled week of hiking, camping, smoking mary-joo-wanner, and doin' what comes natural. In other words, they're what's for dinner.  The group consists of three couples and a partnerless fifth-wheel type who, if history has taught us anything, will be the lone survivor after all the sexually-active teens have been slaughtered.

We witness another attack as a hapless forest ranger stumbles onto the scene of the initial carnage and has his own unfortunate encounter with the creature, but other than that, the first half of the movie is pretty uneventful.  Game wardens Jack and Amy continue to trade barbs and rub each other the wrong way in just that age-old cinematic tradition that lets you know without a doubt that they're bound to fall in love before the fade-out. 

The campers, of course, smoke more weed, have more sex, spout more incredibly inane dialogue, play spin-the-bottle, give bad performances, and go skinny-dipping (boobies!)--exactly the kind of stuff they're supposed to do while waiting around to be killed.  We do get to know them somewhat during this time, though, and maybe even sorta like them, perhaps enough so that when the monster starts taking them out one by one we might even care just a teeny bit.

As the unsuspecting campers gaily cavort, Amy tries to grab some shuteye in her sleeping bag while Jack sits in a tree with his rifle.  But Amy can't sleep, so she calls Jack on her walkie-talkie and they have one of those cute conversations in which they begin to warm up to one another at last.  It's such a cute conversation that the movie cuts back and forth between it and the teenagers three times before finally, without warning (and, for some reason, without any suspenseful buildup whatsoever), the creature pops out of the darkness and starts rampaging through the teenagers' camp.  At first it appears as though it's going to kill them all at once as it swings its massive claws and sends them flying backward into trees amidst showers of blood. 

It's here that we first get a really good look at it, and instead of being some CGI concoction or cable-controlled puppet, it's actually an old-fashioned "guy-in-a-monster-suit" monster with a big snarling werewolf head on top. (The face doesn't move, except for a mouth that sorta goes up and down.)  At times impressive, at other times a little funny-looking, the werewolf (for that is indeed what it is, as Amy, in a startling leap of logic, will later figure out) makes a pretty cool and menacing monster.  It also helps add to my impression that this movie, despite the sex and gore, is ultimately a welcome throwback to the low-budget B monster flicks of the 50s.

Jack and Amy make their way to the scene and shoot at the creature until it retreats.  Then Jack goes off on his own to track it while Amy is left to lead the survivors back to the jeep.  On the way they are picked off one by one and we get to see plenty of blood and gore (one of them even has her spine ripped out, which is something you don't see every day) that is very nicely rendered by the special-effects guys.  At last, the quickly-dwindling group stumbles upon an empty farmhouse from which they must make their final stand against the monster. 

It's at this point that I suddenly realized that I was really enjoying this movie.  What first seemed to be just another boringly predictable slasher flick (the slasher, in this case, being a werewolf), with a faceless gaggle of goofy, sex-crazed teens being served up in turn for death, was ultimately turning out to be a pretty exciting monster movie that actually managed to show some imagination, turn a few of my expectations inside-out, and serve up a surprise or two.  And best of all, everyone both in front of and behind the camera seemed to be getting better as the movie progressed. 

All the technical stuff--directing, camerawork, editing, etc.--was in fine form, and the actors themselves (the ones that were left, anyway) seemed to thrive once relieved of the inanity of the earlier dialogue and situations.  It all leads up to an exciting climax that pays off in a satisfying way, thankfully devoid of the usual "Chucky Syndrome" false ending that I'm so sick of.  There's even a nice twist ending right before the credits that sends the movie off well and left me feeling pretty good about having seen it. 

Maybe it's a good thing that the first half of THE FEEDING seems so ordinary and predictable, because that makes it just that much better when it finally turns into a good old-fashioned monster movie.  Don't get me wrong--it's by no means a great film.  But I ended up having a lot of fun watching it, which is just about all I could ask from a low-budget werewolf movie.

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