Ginger Nuts of Horror
By Alex Davis
Dir. Joe Maggio, USA, 95 min
Since we're just past the festive season, let's talk about food, shall we?
Eating and food seems to be a pretty popular theme in extreme horror. We of course have Blood Feast (original and pending remake), Feast and its two sequels, Eat, Gnaw, Bite and many more besides. Of course many of those movies touch on cannibalism – Eat played particularly well with the theme of self-cannibalism – but here is a movie that is far more about food in its wider sense. It's also a withering condemnation of the role of the critic and the reviewer, so I'd best tread a little carefully with what I say...
The movie follows two main protagonists, pretentious chef Peter Grey – who constantly espouses the virtue of local, natural ingredients on his TV show and at his restaurant – and marginally less pretentious food critic JT Franks, who writes a food blog called Gastropunk that evidently wields enough influence for his bad review of Grey's restaurant Feast to get Peter fired from it. With Peter's life falling apart and JT's life falling apart simultaneously, the two are about to cross paths in a very dark way...
What follows is a what many would call a 'torture porn' set up (although I genuinely despise the term) with Grey capturing Franks and dragging him to his cabin in the middle of nowhere to tackle a range of food challenges. With each failure, he suffers a brutal and often strange punishment from his captor. It's more interesting than I could have been for my money – starting with ducking the cannibal angle that I was absolutely ready for all the way through – as the characters aren't really clear-cut black and white or good guy and bad guy. It's hard to really root for either of them at any stage, which makes for a dynamic I personally didn't mind but many people might not find to their tastes. It's only when Franks's partner gets drawn into things there's a real clear good and bad delineation.
The other complaint I had with this film – and it's rare I pin things to one character or actor – is Larry Fessenden's turn as a private detective here. It simply drags the plot and his character is so cliché it's almost unbearable – with some good character dynamics elsewhere that whole part of things just feels unnecessary, almost padding in some places.
On the whole it's OK – it's perfectly watchable but doesn't really excel itself or differ enough from many similar films to be very distinctive, but there are some interesting ideas and as a reviewer it was quite fun to see an exploration at that, and the thread of 'creators' vs 'destroyers' than informed things was followed pretty well. The acting was generally decent as well, which helped things along, so overall it wasn't bad but a bit middling and also a little predictable – I've never been that great at guessing the endings to things but in this case I had it figured out from pretty early on.
RATING: 6/10. I can't really lay any heavy criticism at the door of Bitter Feast, but equally it's a movie that's hard to get hugely excited about. It does the subgenre decently enough, and hits all of its main beats well, but doesn't really depart as much as it could or do anything terribly startling to pull itself apart. To continue the food analogy, it's a decent pub meal rather then cordon bleu cuisine, so I'm happy to award this one 6/10.