Archive for the Australian Horror Category

The Distracted Critic Enters THE TUNNEL (2011)

Posted in 2013, Australian Horror, Faux Documentaries, Horror, Indie Horror, Paul McMahon Columns, Suspense, The Distracted Critic with tags , , , , , , , on February 26, 2013 by knifefighter

Review by Paul McMahon – The Distracted Critic

The Tunnel

THE TUNNEL is an Australian film written by Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey, who have stepped beyond the “found The ” angle by concocting a faux documentary complete with interviews and enhanced screen shots, which reveal images the original crew didn’t realize they’d caught. They’ve crafted a decent story, giving their characters the kind of solid motivations that are rarely found in Hollywood releases. Another way it differs from Hollywood films is that they cast age-appropriate actors who you can believe hold the jobs of their characters, rather than casting pretty-looking twenty-somethings obviously too immature and inexperienced to hold the jobs they portray.

The movie opens with a spin on the “Sleight of Hand Start” (which is when the director reveals a scene from the ending to create tension right off the bat)—a 911 call, complete with subtitles, on a black screen. It tells us very little while it conveys panic and desperation. It’s a popular opening sequence for many documentaries, so it didn’t feel out of place here.

Next, we get a montage of news reports detailing a water shortage in Sydney. The reports cover a government plan to convert an abandoned subway station into a water reclamation facility. This will allow the use of water from a huge underground lake deep beneath the train tunnels. Further reports outline opposition to the plan, including worries that the evicted homeless will flood the streets. Finally, there’s a dismissive report that the plan has been shelved, though no one will explain why.

Now we meet Steve and Tangles, having drinks at their executive producer’s birthday party. Someone is filming the festivities for the hell of it, and Steve is happy to narrate the inter-office politics, while making fun of everyone the camera pans across. We see Pete and Natalie in an intense discussion, and Steve insinuates that Pete is hitting on her. When Natalie moves away warily, Steve and Tangles laugh.

In an interview segment, Steve describes Natalie as: “Just another young person coming in, getting paid too much money, hadn’t really proved herself, but you know, she was ‘the next big thing.'”

Natalie latches onto the abandoned water reclamation project, and when her investigation uncovers stories of people disappearing in the tunnels, Pete is yanked from a story that will take him to China so he can help Nat with her project. It’s a decision that Pete is painfully unhappy with.  He tells Steve and Tangles that Natalie’s: “…treading on thin ice. That’s why John put me onto this, to make sure she doesn’t f___ up again.”

Eventually, Natalie coerces Pete, Steve and Tangles to accompany her into the tunnels, insisting that John knows where they are. They break in through a maintenance gate and wander about using an outdated map. In an interview segment, Natalie confesses that she could not get the necessary permits to film in the tunnel, and she believed that without them the station would cancel her story. “…I put a lot of work into my career and I think it was all basically hanging on this one story. I didn’t really have a choice.”

Eventually, the team makes their way to the underground lake. Here, Natalie tries to record a sequence for her report, but Tangles keeps cutting her off to tell Pete and Steve to quit whispering. They deny doing it, but Tangles doesn’t believe them and accuses them of “punking” him.

Later on they find the “Bell Room,” where we learn that the tunnels were used as a public air raid shelter during WWII. The bell used to alert citizens to a bombing raid is still intact. Tangles complains that it’s too loud when Nat rings the bell, so he takes his microphones into the next room to try and dull the sound. Steve dons Tangles’ headphones and watches the gauges while Pete takes over the camera. The instant Nat rings the bell, Steve screams Tangles’ name and runs into the next room. Tangles has disappeared. They return to the bell room and discover their gear has disappeared as well….

They do manage to locate Tangles' flashlight, however.

They do manage to locate Tangles’ flashlight, however.

Director Carlo Ledesma has experience with real documentaries, having directed both FOOD MATTERS [2008] and HUNGRY FOR CHANGE [2012]. With THE TUNNEL, he has put together a “horror documentary” with a true-to-life feel. We see reporters like this all the time in real life, self-important gung-ho types who believe that their cameras and microphones will magically protect them from danger and keep them separate from anything that happens around them.

The acting is very good. Bel Deliá (THE LOVE OF MY LIFE, scheduled for 2014– I’ll be looking for it), as Natalie, conveys the desperation of someone on a last chance to save her job while trying to conceal her own self-doubt. She is believable throughout. Andy Rodoreda (BLACK WATER, 2007) plays Pete, who is increasingly relied upon to lead the group as Natalie’s composure begins to fracture. Steve Davis (the Australian TV series EVENT ZERO, 2012) plays Steve, the cameraman. It was a surprise to learn that his primary filmmaking experience is with cinematography and camera work, because his acting was fantastic.

Steve Davis plays Steve, a surprisingly good actor for a cameraman.

Steve Davis plays Steve, a surprisingly good actor for a cameraman.

Lastly, Luke Arnold (BROKEN HILL, 2009 and a lot of TV work down under) is excellent as Tangles, who, wearing the sound man’s headphones, gives most of the early tension to the film. There are a handful of moments when Steve focuses on him staring intently into the blackness as if he expects to see someone or something out there.

THE TUNNEL has some frightening moments and above-average suspense, though it does contains one eye-rolling sequence where you have to question the director’s judgement. (It involves the re-appearance of a minor character in a place he has no business being.)

In the end, the documentary format is not a new idea. It was used in the Australian film LAKE MUNGO in 2008, and there have undoubtedly been others. THE TUNNEL is more reminiscent of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999), the Spanish film [REC] (2007), and even CLOVERFIELD (2008). While it differs from these movies by coming at you like a legitimate documentary instead of a VHS cassette filmed by dead people, you don’t walk away from the movie feeling that difference on any meaningful level. It comes off, all told, like another entry into the ‘found footage’ pantheon. A good entry, but still.

I give THE TUNNEL two and a half stars with a single time out.

© Copyright 2013 by Paul McMahon




Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, 3-D, Animals Attack, Australian Horror, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Bad Situations, Daniel I. Russell Columns, DON'T FEED THE..., Guest Columnists, Shark Attacks, Sharks with tags , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2013 by knifefighter


BAIT (2012)
Movie Review by Daniel I. Russell
(Special Overseas Correspondent)


I have always had a crippling shark phobia. I used to have a toy boat in the bath with a hole in the deck, and for some reason, I imagined sharks inside it, gliding through the dark waters. If you put your eye up to the hole you could… almost…see them…

So yes. Sharks. Terrifying things.

As I grew older, my thoughts matured, and I knew that the odds of being eaten by a shark in England are slim to none. I would never be eaten by a shark. Preposterous! I don’t live anywhere near them!

I sit and write this by the beach in Western Australia, the very same beach where, just this week and the day before Australia Day, great whites were spotted just 30 metres out. On Saturday, the water was thick with boats, surfers, swimmers, pets and children playing. It was my own Amity Island, and I was vigilant.

So what better time to spend the evening watching the latest in a long line of shark movies: BAIT. Plus it’s Australian (well, half-Australian. It’s a joint venture with Singapore).

BAIT puts a spin on a traditional formula. You won’t find survivors on a boat (JAWS, JAWS 2), stranded in the ocean (DEEP WATER, THE REEF) or any other completely ludicrous set up (2011’s SHARK NIGHT). During a robbery at a supermarket, a tsunami hits, flooding the shopping area and underground car park. Most shoppers drown or are pulverised by shelves and the like, leaving a band of merry survivors trapped in cars or perched atop the supermarket shelves.

Oh, and there’s a 12-foot great white shark in there doing its Friday big shop.

Without spoiling much, and this has been mentioned in plenty of other reviews so I’m guilt free here, there are actually two sharks. This isn’t done as a twist or anything, it’s just like, hey, there’s two sharks: one for the supermarket, one for the car park.

How terribly convenient.

So plenty of carnage with twice the shark then, eh?

Let’s sink our teeth into this and say that straight off the bat, you know what you’re in for. The first half an hour introduces the viewer to our soon-to-be survivors. In any survival movie, you must want the survivors to…well, survive. Or is that cliché? Oh, how this might have been achieved with some fleshed out characters and good acting. Despite the numerous signs that this is an Australian movie (Look! The hero eats Milo! The villain drives a Ute! I was expecting a kangaroo in a corked hat riding on the back of a shark to be honest…) accents are mixed, which ruins the set up a little. Dialogue is flat and lazy, as are the stock characters. The haunted hero is boring, his love interest does nothing throughout the movie, as does the stereotypical cop. Out of the dozen or so characters, more than half could have been dropped from the movie with the slightest of impacts. Perhaps this freeing up of screen time might make us care about the few survivors, giving them the room to breathe and be more rounded out. As it stands, I had as much empathy for the characters as I do for Idol contestants.

And let’s get this out there. One of the bad guys is played by Julian McMahon (aka, Dr. Doom in the FANTASTIC FOUR movies). I’ve had people complain that as a villain, he isn’t menacing enough and is as bland as beige wallpaper. After ruining one of Marvel’s greatest super villains (for some), here  he is with his brush and paste, beiging it up once more. Plus, isn’t he Australian? An Australian in an Australian movie…that doesn’t sound Australian. Hmm.

But the sharks, yeah! The sharks!

Remember DEEP BLUE SEA? I actually quite like that movie. But that came out in…1999? One of the first uses of CGI for shark effects in a major movie. I can also remember Casper Van Dien appearing in a straight-to-DVD feature called SHARK ATTACK. The cover for the sequel contained a shark that looked like it has been made out of a washing-up bottle on a kids’ TV show.

We’re now in 2013, and from this movie, it appears shark special effects have gone nowhere in the last 15 or so years.

The CGI is horrific, evening cartoonish at times. This was obviously designed with the 3D at the forefront of their designs (I watched it in 2D) but even then, the makers seemed to have this in mind for the first five minutes and then forget about the 3D until the finale. It’s as obvious as rewatching JAWS 3-D (1983).

But none of these issues can compete with the sloppy writing. Bad, bad dialogue. Twists that are so obvious they don’t actually qualify as twists. Shotguns that sit in water for hours and still work. And then can shoot underwater. I’m no gun expert, but this feels a tad off.

(Actually, after writing this I went and did some research. Shotguns can fire underwater—so that’s today’s something new learned out of the way. Thanks BAIT! —but lose momentum almost instantly by the drag of the water. You can shoot a paddling pool through the water and it won’t pop. YouTube it.)

In summary, BAIT is a bad, bad movie, and this is from someone who loves shark movies.

A movie like this isn’t supposed to be an Oscar winner, but if you want some good old fashioned shark-munching fun, there’s better out there. There’s also worse. Let’s separate the great whites from the cookie cutters.



JAWS (1975)
My own greatest movie ever made that stands up to repeated viewings. Forever. The shark is out of sight for the most part, jump scenes are textbook and wonders are done with the score. An immortal movie that will never truly go away. Plus, characterisation is second to none with our favourite three men and a boat. That’s some bad hat, Harry.


JAWS 2 (1978)
I also like JAWS 2 very much. Things get straight into it in comparison with the first as the mystery was given away with the first movie. Great performances all round. I can remember watching this one over and over as a kid.

deepblueseaDEEP BLUE SEA (1999)
Was it makos here instead of great whites? I can’t remember. Been that long since I’ve seen this one. Sharks are genetically modified to give them bigger brains so scientists can extract more of the ick that can cure Alzheimer’s. What can go wrong? More action than horror (think DEEP RISING and ALIEN RESURECTION from around the same time), this still has some great moments. And Samuel L. Jackson. How can you forget the woman who is bitten in half and still keeps swimming for a few more seconds? Lovely. I’ll have to watch this again to see how it’s aged.

thereefTHE REEF (2010)
A fairly recent Australian movie in the lines of DEEP WATER (2006), based on a true story and an absolute corker. A fella who delivers boats for a living takes a few friends and family out, but the boat hits a reef and starts to sink. The solution? Swim for an island a few kilometres away. The problem? A shark takes a liking to the group of swimmers. Fantastically shot and heart wrenchingly realistic, this has one of the most upsetting scenes (for me) I’ve seen in a horror movie in a good few years. Surprisingly, the movie doesn’t have much in the way of blood and guts. It doesn’t need it.

The creature from "Peter Benchley's CREATURE"

The creature from “Peter Benchley’s CREATURE”

Benchley! The master! The brain behind JAWS! The man behind…this piece of crap? What could be worse than a shark eating people? How about a man-shark that looks like something the Power Rangers forgot to fight? A mess.

redwaterRED WATER  (2003)
Rapper Coolio (remember him?) was nominated for an Academy Award in this big budget thriller about a bull shark terrorising a river community. Actually, he wasn’t. He was poop in this, and everything about the movie is poop. I would go into more constructive feedback, but I already spent 90 minutes watching this that I’m not getting back and don’t want to waste any more.

SharkAttack_Cover-265x393SHARK ATTACK (1999)
Title needs an exclamation mark, in my opinion. Casper Van Dien was in STARSHIP TROOPERS and nothing good since. Poor bloke. He’d make a great John Sheppard in the MASS EFFECT movie. Anyhoo, here he stars with GHOSTBUSTERS’ Ernie Hudson (why Ernie? Why?). I won’t sum up the plot, or acting, or effects. Just watch the trailer. It basically shows the complete movie in about three minutes.

sharkattack2SHARK ATTACK 2 (2000)
Better? I think this is better than the first one despite the aforementioned atrocious DVD cover. This one scores points for having a very well done non-CGI man bitten in half. I think he waves to some kids on his way down. Nice. Title definitely needs an exclamation mark.

The movie that started so many pub-based arguments. Not the discussion over which hideous CGI creature would win (and to be honest, who gives a toss?) but the immortal question: can a shark jump out of the sea high enough to eat a plane? The answer, it appears, is hell yes. Discovery Channel: pull your socks up. I want less ecological studies and more plane-munching.

A film that is so unbelievably bad…it’s worth a watch. Get some friends, get some drinks, and prepare to experience a master class in floating turdology. Ladies and gentlemen, MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS.

© Copyright 2013 by David I. Russell

(For more ruminations by Mr. Russell, you can check out his blog here).


Posted in 2012, Australian Horror, Indie Horror, Paul McMahon Columns, Psychos, The Distracted Critic with tags , , , , , on December 12, 2012 by knifefighter

Review by Paul McMahon, “The Distracted Critic”

TLO - poster 1

I came to THE LOVED ONES (2009) through an online conversation in which someone who’d seen it insisted I hunt it down. To convince me, he stated that Lola Stone was “the most intense female psychopath put to film, with the possible exception of La Femme from INSIDE (2007).”

How could I pass up a challenge like that?

I jotted down the craziest female psychopaths I could remember. Asami from AUDITION (1999). Annie Wilkes from MISERY (1990). Baby Firefly from THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005). Pamela Voorhees. Baby Jane Hudson. May. So many more.

Then I popped in THE LOVED ONES and prepared to be amazed.

The movie opens with a teenager driving with his Dad. It’s made clear that the teen, Brent (Xavier Samuel, Riley in TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE, 2010 and TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN 2, 2012) is getting experience for his driver’s license. They chat about the car, Brent insisting it’s crap while his Dad says it’s the best car he’s ever owned.

“You were conceived in the back of this car,” he says, and laughs at his son’s reaction.

In a blink, a bloodied and half naked man appears in the road. Brent swerves around him, over corrects, and smashes into a tree.

We’re told it’s six months later. Brent’s father was killed in the crash. Brent now wears a double-edged razor blade on a chain around his neck and is cutting his arms pretty regularly. While Brent’s friend Jaime asks the school’s hot Goth chick to the End of School Dance, Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy, ABE LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, 2012), shyly asks Brent to the dance.

“Sorry, Lola,” he says. “I’m going with Holly. Sorry.”

Soon after, Holly picks Brent up from school. She’s gotten her license. She takes Brent parking. While they’re doing the deed, we look up through the car window and see Lola Stone, staring, watching, glaring. It’s a clue we’ve seen in a hundred films that mousy Lola is not all there.

Later on, Brent’s mother offers him money to take a cab to the dance, insisting that he have someone with experience drive them tonight. They argue and Brent runs off. He finds a stone cliff and begins to climb. He’s obviously been here before, and he flirts with throwing himself off now and again. Once he reaches the top, he collapses, exhausted, and suddenly there’s a man holding a rag over his mouth until he passes out.

Holly arrives at Brent’s house and finds only his mother who is worried that Brent has not returned. Then Brent’s dog shows up, bloodied, broken, and crawling on his belly. They’re on the phone to the sheriff soon after.

Always a bad way to wake up.

Always a bad way to wake up.

From here, the movie becomes torture-porn. It’s a sub-genre of horror that I personally tired of a long time ago. The thing about torture-porn is, there are only so many implements of pain, there are only so many body parts you can mutilate with them and there are only so many ways a person can scream. Sure, you can get creative in the editing room, and first-time writer-director Sean Byrne, with editor Andy Canny, have done everything they can, cutting away and cutting back in tempo with the search efforts of the town Sheriff, with Jaime and the Goth chick obliterating themselves with pot and booze in the school parking lot, and with Holly poking around her missing boyfriend’s bedroom. Still, if a movie of this sort is going to rise above the crap that’s out there, it’s got to tell a story alongside the bloodshed.

I was impressed to find a story here. Actually, there’s a different story for each character, and Mr. Byrne does a masterful job keeping us up with who’s suffering through what. The nature of their issues keeps the characters from ever really connecting with each other. Brent’s problems are completely internal; Lola and her Daddy have the type of problems that don’t allow for interactions with anyone but each other. The one time Holly and Brent’s mom start to have a real conversation, they are interrupted by the sheriff, who has his hands full with his own problems. In effect, we get characters that are more interesting than average bouncing around each other while wrapped up in themselves. It’s a bold strategy, and it all hangs together to sharpen the isolated tone of the film.

The most natural performance was by Fred Whitlock as Brent’s dad, and he was gone from the movie in the first few minutes. John Brumpton (THE HUNTER, 2011), who plays Lola’s dad, managed to be creepy in a bunch of different ways; as a dad who would do anything his child asked, as a father who would destroy anyone that caused his girl the slightest disappointment, as a lonely man confused by lustful feelings toward his own daughter. The other actors put forth good work, but seemed subdued, possibly due to the director’s decision to keep the characters apart.

Which brings us to Lola Stone. Robin McLeavy’s performance was crazy in the manner of a spoiled rich kid, which was a surprising choice in that she lived with her dad in a run-down shack and supplemented their diet with roadkill Daddy brought home. Despite my Internet friend’s insistence, Lola is a far cry from the “craziest female psycho ever put to film.” She’d be very lucky to crack the top twenty. Lola’s dad did the hard work, subduing Brent and bringing him home. Can’t imagine Annie Wilkes or Asami ever needing help to capture their prey. Daddy also coached Lola on how to use syringes and power tools. No one ever had to tell Baby Firefly or Pamela Voorhees “Push a little harder, sweetheart.” Left to her own devices, I can’t even see Lola Stone placing above Catherine Tremell from BASIC INSTINCT (1992) or Alex Forrest from FATAL ATTRACTION (1987).

Probably how Veruca Salt from WILLIE WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY would have turned out had she grown up poor in the Australian outback.

Probably how Veruca Salt from WILLIE WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY would have turned out had she grown up poor in the Australian outback.

In all, though, THE LOVED ONES managed to offer a surprise or two for this type of movie. The camera work was pretty good, Zeljka Stanin’s make-up effects were excellent, and the unusual storytelling technique catches your attention. The biggest point against the film would have to be a pretty important plot point that disappears without an explanation.

I give THE LOVED ONES two-and-a-half stars, with no time-outs.

© Copyright 2012 by Paul McMahon

TLO - poster 2

Pickin’ The Carcass: THE REEF (2010)

Posted in 2011, Animals Attack, Australian Horror, Michael Arruda Reviews, Pickin' the Carcass, Sharks with tags , , , , on September 23, 2011 by knifefighter

DVD Review By Michael Arruda


I know, it’s September, and summer is over, so who’s really in the mood for a shark movie right now? Hmm, well SHARK NIGHT 3D (2011) was just released in theaters, so someone must be! Anyway, today on PICKIN’ THE CARCASS we have a shark movie, THE REEF (2010).

The plot is simple enough. A group of friends, Luke (Damian Walshe-Howling), Matt (Gyton Grantley), Suzie (Adrienne Pickering), and Kate (Zoe Naylor) get together for a sailing trip on the waters off Australia, along the Great Barrier Reef. Their boat strikes an underwater rock, and it capsizes, and the four friends find themselves stranded.

Luke points out that the current is taking them further out to sea, and they’re in waters where few people travel and where few planes fly overhead. If they leave the boat and swim, they could reach nearby Turtle Island, which Luke believes is about 10 miles from them. The others aren’t keen on this idea, as they know sharks are in the water, plus Matt and Suzie admit that they’re not strong swimmers. Luke argues that the boat will eventually sink, and when it does, they will be that much further from land, and so they really should start swimming as soon as possible. The friends eventually agree, and grabbing some floats to help them along, they leave their capsized boat and begin swimming towards Turtle Island.

Of course, since this is a horror movie, before they even see Turtle Island, they spot a shark in the water, and sure enough, it’s a great white shark with an appetite. Since they are in the wide open ocean, they don’t have too many escape options, and they become terrified real quick. As the shark hunts them, they find there is little they can do other than to keep swimming in the hope that shark will leave them alone and they can reach Turtle Island.

I have to admit, THE REEF was a pleasant surprise. It gets off to a quick start—the boat crashes within the first 15 minutes of the movie— and stays strong throughout.

Now, THE REEF is not an action-oriented horror movie, so don’t expect JAWS (1975) or a CGI extravaganza. In fact, in terms of pacing, THE REEF is actually a bit slow, but when you’re terrified, slow only makes things scarier, so the pace works to the movie’s advantage. Where THE REEF excels is in delivering a sense of fear and foreboding that gets more intense at the movie goes on. As such, THE REEF is a study in fear, examining what it’s like to defenseless and vulnerable in an open ocean with a great white shark on the prowl. I was very uncomfortable while watching this movie, and this was a good thing.

THE REEF is a serious production, well-handled by everyone involved. The acting is decent, and while none of the four players completely blew me away, none of them stood out like a sore thumb either. They were sufficiently terrified throughout the movie, and better yet, they were thoroughly believable.

Andrew Traucki wrote and directed this movie, and he wrote and directed a similar movie called BLACK WATER (2007) which featured almost the same exact plot. In BLACK WATER, a group of friends go on a boating trip and end up being hunted by a monstrous crocodile. Both these films were Australian productions, and while the plots of both were nearly the same, I liked THE REEF much better than BLACK WATER. In BLACK WATER, the characters end up being stuck in a tree, while the crocodile waits for them below, which I found less suspenseful than the situation in THE REEF, where the folks are actually in the same ocean water as the shark, and they’re completely defenseless. I also remember the crocodile looking a little fake, whereas the shark in THE REEF looks real.

The shark looks real because for the most part Traucki used a real shark. CGI effects were used sparingly. Now, this being said, because real shark footage was used, don’t expect exciting scenes of shark maulings. They don’t happen here, and so THE REEF, in spite of its R rating, isn’t really all that graphic. The shark attacks, for the most part, occur off camera. However, this doesn’t hurt the film. The kill scenes are scary and sad. You get to know these four folks, and you don’t want them to become shark food. Traucki does a really fine job editing these attack scenes, making them quite effective.

There’s also a nice music score by Rafael May. No, it’s not John Williams’ JAWS score or even on that level, but it’s a very haunting score that adds to the fear induced by this movie. It’s more than just generic scary music.

By far, my favorite part of THE REEF is the fear the film generates. I really believed these folks were in the open ocean being preyed upon by a great white shark, not some cartoonish looking CGI shark that will swallow them in one bite and eat entire boats, etc. No, this shark nibbles, bites, tears, and ultimately eats.

It also works because it keeps things simple. There aren’t many questions about character motivations or plot points. These people are in the ocean and all they want to do is get out of the ocean before they become shark food.

I really liked THE REEF and highly recommend it. Sure, summer is over, but if you like shark movies, if you like to be scared and made to feel uncomfortable, then you should check this one out. THE REEF is very good at what it does.

Wanna go for one last swim before autumn arrives? Then jump into THE REEF. Just pray that you make it back out alive.


© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda


Posted in 2010, Australian Horror, Cannibalism, Indie Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Trasmissions to Earth with tags , , , , , , on September 14, 2010 by knifefighter

Transmissions to Earth # 3: FEED (2005)
DVD review by L.L. Soares

This week’s transmission takes a look at the Australian horror film FEED (2005), directed by Brett Leonard.

FEED is the story of a bizarre website that caters to “feeders” and “gainers” (i.e. morbidly obese women and the men who love them). When internet cop Phillip Jackson (Patrick Thompson) investigates the site, he’s sure something criminal is going on — the women are being fed to death for the enjoyment (and gambling pleasure) of their viewing audience. When Jackson travels from Sydney, Australia to Toledo, Ohio to track down the man responsible, he finds out that his suspect, Michael Carter (Alex O’Loughlin), knows all about him and is more than a worthy opponent. The two are then involved in a game of cat-and-mouse, where Carter actually seems to be holding most of the cards, since Jackson is out of his jurisdiction and has arrived in America against the orders of his higher-ups. But Jackson has one thing going for him – a rabid refusal to give up on something once he’s set his mind to it.

FEED is an interesting film, dealing in such lofty issues as the female body image in popular culture, as well as fetish internet sites and the definition of what “normal” love is (contrasting cop Jackson’s strained relationship with his girlfriend back in Sydney with Carter’s strange, often gentle love affairs with the women he “feeds” on his internet site). Director Brett Leonard (whose previous work includes THE LAWNMOWER MAN (1992), VIRTUOSITY (1995) and the film adaptation of Marvel Comics’ MAN-THING (2005) — you may have seen the last one late some night on the SyFy Channel), does a good job with the material, and the acting is top-notch, especially Thompson and O’Loughlin.

In fact, this movie will be of special interest to fans of Alex O’Loughlin, who has since gone on to bigger things, mainly on television. He was vampire Mick St. John in the short-lived series MOONLIGHT (2007-2008), which may have lasted only one season, but has developed quite a cult following. O’Loughlin will also star as Detective Steve McGarrett (the role originally made famous by Jack Lord) in the new version of the TV series HAWAII FIVE-O , coming this fall on CBS.

Personally, I thought it could have been a lot darker. FEED has more the feel of a thriller than a straight-on horror movie. And considering the quote on the box cover from Fangoria magazine (“One of the sickest movies I have ever seen”), I was disappointed. I’ve certainly seen many movies that were much “sicker” and horrific. Although, some effective scenes involving a feeding tube and sex with food (and lots of body fat) will probably gross out some viewers.

The DVD has a lot of good extras including 10 (!) deleted scenes (several of which actually fill in some plot holes and might have been better left in), an alternate ending (which shows that they went with the right one), interviews with the director and cast members, behind-the-scenes footage, a hilarious “infomercial” for the film, and O’Loughlin and producer Melissa Beauford answering questions at the film’s Philadelphia premiere.

Despite any reservations I have, the movie is worth seeking out. There’s a lot of good stuff here.

© Copyright 2010 by L.L. Soares

(A slightly different version of this review first appeared in the magazine ULTRA VIOLENT)