Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Bitter Feast (DVD Review)

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Photo: Courtesy of eOne Films

Writer/Dir: Joe Maggio (Paper Covers Rock, Milk and Honey)
Cast: James Le Gros, Joshua Leonard, Amy Seimetz, Mario Batali, Larry Fessenden
USA, 2010

Reason to see: A horror film that involves a blogger? There is no way I could resist this one!

It's a big strange to review a horror film that involves a blogger who, let's say, doesn't have his most enjoyable days depicted in the movie. But I'll try and push any hesitations to the side as I put these words to screen.

Bitter Feast follows TV chef and restaurateur Peter Grey (James Le Gros) whose all about the the purity and beauty of organic, fresh food and isn't someone who's big on humour or criticism. Enter snarky and unhappy food blogger JT (Joshua Leonard) to the mix and we have all the ingredients necessary for a recipe of conflict, culinary style.

It is a horror film, and when it goes dark it does so thematically as well as visually with lots of button-pushing moments involving manipulation, teasing, torture and violence. Often there is a twisted sense of humour in these moments as well, which can throw me out of a film but in Bitter Feast it really works. These two guys are not ones that will back down, but both have issues and neither have great interest in or aptitude for smooth social skills, which leads to interesting back-handed and almost pacifist conflict. It feels mean to laugh at it, but it was quite entertaining. The cast also includes Amy Seimetz as Katherine, JT's wife, whom I though did an excellent job. We also get to see Larry Fessenden (I Sell the Dead) as private investigator William Covey and chef Mario Batali is a cameo-style role.

Although you can feel that it's a low budget film, that never took me out of the film experience. The story is solid, the characters are easy to root for or against (or sometimes both) and it is a interesting, albeit kind of sick & twisted, look at the effects of actions. The food in the film is impressive (it's all real food), and I'm sure foodies that can take the gore of this will be very interested to check it out. I also really enjoyed the art direction, the make-up special effects for the gore are great and I absolutely adored the score. I never would have thought of a food-style horror film, but it really hits the nail on the head. Or the chicken in the neck.

Warnings: violence, torture and gore

DVD Extras:
  • Audio Commentary with writer/director Joe Maggio, actor/producer Larry Fessenden, sound designer Graham Reznick and producers Peter Phok & Bret Kunkle. I really enjoyed this commentary, had lots of interesting discussions, especially about low budget filmmaking and was completely surprized but the almost gentile tone and calm attitude considering the fact that it's a horror film. This is a tag-team style commentary with writer/director Joe Maggio being on it the whole way through, and starting with actor/producer Larry Fessenden for the first third, then switching to sound designer Graham Reznick and Bret Kunkle for the second third and ending off with producer Peter Phok for the final third. The discussions revolved around working a low budget film, casting, decisions and changes to the ending, homages, learning through doing vs listening to others, and responding to if it's a response/analogy to critics.
  • Deleted Scene & Alternate Ending (6 minutes) I really enjoyed checking out the deleted scene, I rarely say this but I would have loved to see it in the film. Also an alternate ending which was very interesting.
  • Joe Maggio Interviews Mario Batali (7 minutes) writer/director Joe Maggio interviews chef/actor Mario Batali about food bloggers & critics, the power of bloggers, on acting and being involved with the film and horror films.
  • Making Of (29 minutes) behind the scenes, film footage, food preparation, shooting and interviews with writer/director Joe Maggio, actor James LeGros, actor/producer Larry Fessenden, producer Peter Phok, Food Stylist Adam Chilenski, special makeup effects artist Brian Spears, cinematographer Michael McDonough, sound mixer Allison Jackson. Making of has a strong focus on the production team, producing a low budget film, how everyone came together and behind the scenes involving the food preparation and special effects.
  • Feast Portraits (2 minutes) portraits of cast & crew of the film set to music
  • Teaser
  • Trailer
Bitter Feast is available on DVD as of February 15, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it to horror fans and to bloggers (note warnings)

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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Photo: James LeGros as Peter Gray in Bitter Feast. Courtesy of eOne Films.

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Photo: Joshua Leonard as JT Franks in Bitter Feast. Courtesy of eOne Films

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