Matthew Le Nevez
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6th Feb 06
A cybercrime investigator (Thompson) tracks a man (O'Lachlan) suspected of force-feeding women to death.
After the relative failure of the under-budgeted and under-developed Man-Thing, director Brett (Lawnmower Man) Leonard teamed up with two of his actors from the Marvel superhero film - Patrick Thompson and Alex O’Loughlin - to develop a thriller set in the sexual fetish subculture world of Feeders (men who admire fat girls) and Gainers (obese women).
In America this is currently a fast-growing (sorry) phenomenon with over 4000 websites dedicated to the Feeder-Gainer lifestyle and the mutual, symbiotic relationships involved therein. Sensing this was a unique setting for a film, Leonard and his writer Kieran Galvin added in themes of cannibalism and a thriller plot about a serial-killing Feeder and an obsessive Internet detective to deliver a low-budget indie production that is far-removed from the usual movie junk food that Hollywood so often force feeds us with.
Opening with a recreation of the recent German cannibalism incident, Feed takes few prisoners from the get-go. With blue filters masking the Australian locations for Germany, our intrepid ‘hero’ cop Phillip (Patrick Thompson) storms a building, just in time to discover two consenting males engaging in a cannibalistic pact. ”It’s my body! I want to be eaten!” screams the victim in a truly disturbing scene (scarily there are apparently over 400 genuine registered cannibals in Germany), but unfortunately for him he is prevented in his desire to donate his body as a doner kebab.
Slightly fazed by the incident, Phillip returns to his home of Bondi, Australia, only to discover more sexual fetishes, first from his girlfriend (”I go away for six months, and you pierce your clit!”) and then the discovery of a website whilst at work called www.feederx.com. With suspicions aroused of a feeder-gainer snuff ring, the cops attempt to hack the website, but are thwarted by the site’s security. Despite Phillip’s boss advising him to take time off to relax, Phillip instead takes it upon himself to jet over to Toledo, Ohio, in order to track down the twisted Webmaster of feederx.com in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse.
Without wanting to state the obvious, Feed is definitely not for the weak-hearted. What we have here is a glimpse into a strange and disturbing world of sick sex, violence, gluttony and murder, and whilst not being particularly visceral, it remains pretty disturbing. From the opening cannibal scene through to the violent sex scenes and the final fight scene amidst plastic bags of body fat, the film definitely works on the gross-out angle it’s so obviously striving for.
As a thriller though, the film does fall down. The early scene of the two cops attempting to hack the feederx.com website clumsily bands about words such as VPN and IP without really going into any detail on how the detectives are actually trying to hack the site. Ask any 15 year old and they’ll laugh at the over-simplicity of the cops’ actions here.
Perhaps one of the biggest flaws of the film lies with our main ‘hero’. Although reasonably well played by Patrick Thompson, it is really difficult to elicit sympathy for the character of Phillip, as his actions are often led by obsession, and at no point do we really root for him, especially after his violent sex assault on his girlfriend. In fact, whether this was intended or not, I often felt myself rooting for Michael (Alex O’Loughlin), the baddie of the film who has far more charisma, presence, and a sense of logic inside of him than the work-obsessed (Jealous? On-the-edge?) cop who is pursuing him.
By far the most sympathetic character of the film though is the Gainer Dierdre (played by comedian Gabby Millgate in a very convincing fat suit). With little to use other than her face and head, Millgate brings a lot of tenderness to the role of an innocent whose dreams are accidentally caught up with the desires of a murderer, and she makes the whole idea of Feeder-Gainer culture seem, if not something you yourself would necessarily like to be involved in, at least something feasible for others.
Brett Leonard has commented that Feed is his ”movie about America”, and although it’s fair to say he makes some astute points about the Western obsessions with consumerism, cosmetic surgery and the body beautiful, he’s let down by a hokey script. The direction is reasonably assured, with some interesting and garish filter digital camera work, combined with some handheld sequences that give the film a verite feel, but unfortunately it often feels like a low-rate Se7en. There is also a lot of quick cut editing too, often whirling images in our head to the point where we no longer feel the ground beneath our cinema seat. If it’s intended to add to the nausea of the film itself, then it works, although it does have a habit of completely alienating the viewer from the plot of the film.
Perhaps one of the best things about Feed is the music; re-recordings of such songs as Tainted Love, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-dot Bikini (yes, really) and Cherish, which fit the mood well and lend a jarring outlook on the obsessions of these counter-culture denizens. The songs provide the film with its few moments of light relief, for although Feed is billed as a dark comedy, it really is darker than dark humour that often isn’t that funny at all (Phillip’s instruction to the bed-ridden Dierdre when he finally finds her to ”Stay there! Don’t go anywhere!” being an exception).
Overall, Feed is certainly not a failure, and should be seen if you’re into your extreme film experiences, but a severely lacking plot and under-written characters means that although the film remains a fairly enjoyable snack, it’s not much of a feast to really get your teeth into. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a date movie, unless of course your girlfriend is a Gainer herself, in which case you’ll probably be better off renting the DVD as I expect it will be quite hard for her to get out of the house.
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