Sunday, 5 July 2009

Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds (2008)

Midget wrestlers and tattooed naked biker babes?
Oh, yeah. I'm there.

I liked Feast, a quirky 80s style creature feature that toyed around with genre conventions just enough to feel fresh while still delivering on the scares and gore. It was probably the only thing to come out of Project Greenlight that I could give two shits about. So a few years later John Gulager is back with his direct-to-video sequel Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds.

So, how to make a sequel where pretty much everyone is dead? Diane Goldner who played Harley Mom, the biker chick who suffered a grisly and protracted death in the first film, appears again here as Harley Mom's twin-sister Biker Queen. She rolls into town with a foursome of hot biker chicks, ready to dish out punishment to the guy who killed her sister, even if he did do it accidentally. The bartender (veteran character actor Clu Gulager from Return of the Living Dead among other things) had his throat cut in the first film but that doesn't stop him from appearing here too. I guess it helps when you're the director's wife and father, respectively.

Biker Queen straps the Bartender to her bike and rides into town to find her sister's killer, but I guess the actor who played him had to wash his hair the day they shot this film or something because he doesn't show up at all. Instead they meet up with a bunch of crazy characters including Slasher (Carl Anthony Payne), a used car salesman, Secrets (Hanna Putnam), a ditzy woman obsesssed with The Secret, Greg Swank (Tom Gulager, the director's brother, noticing a pattern?), her sleazy lover. In what is probably the best thing in the film, there's also a duo of midget wrestlers named Thunder and Lightning (and yeah, one of them wears a Lucha Libre mask) and their beloved grandma Maria.

Jenny Wade also returns as Honey Pie, the bitch who left them all to die in the first film. She has a pretty nasty fight with the Bartender that ends with him pulling a Mike Tyson (uh... by which I mean he bites her ear off) but she spends most of the film trapped in a supermarket and separated from the main group, making her appearance largely pointless.

Together the group comes up with one ridiculous escape plan after another, most of which revolve around getting to the jail, supposedly the safest place in town. The local meth-dealing Hobo (William Prael) however, has taken up residence there and refuses to let anyone in, even if he has to kill people in the process. In the end they construct a catapult using Biker Queen's bike (although how they got it onto the roof isn't explained) with the intention of launching one of the midgets onto the roof of the jail. Also this plan involves two of the biker babes stripping naked and standing around topless.

For a film with so many awesome hooks, it's a shame that it doesn't do more with them. Thunder and Lightning are criminally underused: They get into a brief grudge match but they don't pull a tag team on an alien monster or anything. There's also a tattooed biker babe with bright red hair and a belt buckle that says "Bad-Ass" who smashes skulls with twin hammers. I mean, there's an interesting character right there. And yet like the rest of the biker babes, she just stands there mute for the entire film, occasionally with her tits exposed. I didn't mind that last part, but I wish she'd had a more active role.

This is definitely a film that deliberately tries to push your buttons. There's an alien autopsy where every prod of an exposed organ results in the cast members being sprayed with vomit, feces and urine until they puke all over each other in disgust. The scene started out mildly amusing but then went on so long that it became tedious, then sublimely ridiculous. That isn't the only gross-out gag either. An old woman is sprayed with alien goo and slowly rots away. An alien fucks a cat. Surely, there is something here to disgust everyone.

This is one of those films where there is really nobody to root for. Everybody is a sociopath, willing to sacrifice anybody and everybody to save their own skin. The de-facto hero, Biker Queen, is first introduced blasting a dog multiple times with a shotgun. Sure he was holding a human hand (a tribute to Yojimbo I guess) but to him it was just a delicious snack that he found on the ground. Lay off him. And for a biker gang they sure don't have any brotherhood, they'll toss their injured comrades to the wolves for no reason at all. An old woman is used to test a catapult and there's a scene with a baby that... well, I won't say much about it except that it made my jaw hit the floor. I don't know, maybe it's just a stylistic thing but that kind of overly-cynical approach just rubs me the wrong way. Even Braindead had a sense of fun and likable characters.

The first film had a limited budget, but it made the most of it. The setting was limited to a single location and the monsters appeared infrequently and usually in the dark. It looked good. Here they show the monsters a lot more and usually in the daytime, which is a mistake because they look pretty cheap and rubbery in the light. The budget constraints really show during the last half hour or so, which take place on the worst rooftop green screen this side of Tommy Wiseau's The Room. There's some of the dreaded digital blood sprays, but there's a lot of nice practical effects work too. The various kills that happen along the way, while gory and occasionally quite inventive, don't have a lot of impact because there's no tension or momentum behind them.

This sequel has the same self-aware tone of the first film (like in the first film, short vignettes introduce each character) but you get the feeling that Gulager is running low on ideas and just throwing every shock tactic and gross-out gag he can think of at the screen. One thing the first film did well was unfold in a way that was just unpredictable enough but still well structured and plotted. Here the plot lurches along in fits and starts, never quite sure where it's going. At the end it suddenly ramps up only to pull the rug out from under you by ending on a cliff hanger. You see, this film was shot back-to-back with Feast 3: Happy Ending, so you'll have to wait for that film before you find out what happened to the remaining cast members. Based on this film, I'm not sure I want to.

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