Right up front, you should know that I’m a big fan of the content that Red Letter Media puts out, especially their film review show Half in the Bag. With that in mind, I decided to purchase one of their films, Feeding Frenzy, on DVD and try to take a critical look at it. The good news is it’s easily worth the $12 in entertainment value. But is it a good movie in and of itself? It has its moments and it knows what it is. It’s far from a “good” movie, but it is entertaining.
What’s it about?
Jesse is a pretty dumb and lazy employee at Mr. Plinkett’s hardware store. He has a crush on Christine, but she couldn’t be any less interested in him. He gets his chance to prove to the world that he’s better than they give him credit for when he discovers that his boss is keeping tiny, hungry monsters in his basement, which threaten the town. I’d love to go into more detail but I also don’t want to spoil the best turns or gags in the film. Mike Stoklasa and Jay Bauman are the main guys at Red Letter Media and host the Half in the Bag show. They wrote and directed this film and each play a supporting character. Jay plays the roommate of Jesse, who has a bad heart, so he can’t risk any scares or stress. Carl plays Jesse’s co-worker, who really is ambivalent about everything, even monsters.
Does it work?
It works pretty well as a comedy. It doesn’t fully work as a horror movie. It functions very well as an homage to puppet monster B-movies. If it seems like I’m waffling, it’s because if you were to review it as a film, it is problematic. But if you take it on its own merits for what it’s attempting to do, it’s very entertaining.
What does it get right?
It gets a lot right. The story is streamlined and doesn’t have superfluous scenes (with one hilarious, intentional exception). The film has solid locations and set decoration. The lighting is consistent and appropriately evocative. The film has a quality veneer – never is the sound bad or the lighting dark and grainy. The monster is interesting and fun. The main characters are fleshed out and believable. The comedy lands.
What isn’t so great?
It’s done for practically no budget. That’s not an excuse, but it’s worth knowing. There aren’t going to be big chase scenes or lots of special effects. The writing/directing team of Mike Stoklasa and Jay Bauman were absolutely aware of this and worked within their means. That being said, there aren’t many big monster scares. The acting is not embarrassing, but sometimes it isn’t engaging. Honestly, it works better than it has any right to.
Who will enjoy this?
If you like not just Gremlins, but the ripoff movies like Ghoulies, you’ll absolutely enjoy Feeding Frenzy. It’s 100% done as an homage to puppet monster movies. The humor is dry and sarcastic but also frequently clever.
The movie does stuff that a bigger movie can’t or won’t. For instance, the villain, Mr. Plinkett, is pretty loathsome and vile, but he’s also a clumsy stroke victim and it’s honestly pretty funny when he bangs into doors and crap. The lead character is pretty dumb and unambitious and that never really changes. He does go through a character arc and experience growth, but it’s on a real level. The main girl is probably the funniest person (though not always the most convincing) in the movie. She gets a lot of fantastic put downs, scenes to mug and some physical comedy and she executes all of that really well. The final monster is both disturbing and very funny.
The whole thing never feels slow or boring, which is the worst thing a low-budget movie can do. Instead it packs itself with big ideas, strange supporting characters and clever dialog. My favorite scene takes place when Christine is meeting with a friend who is in a terrible place. Jesse picks that moment to make his big gesture of showing Christine he loves her by dressing up cool and pumping an apparently homemade song on his beatbox called “We’re so in love that our love is in love.” There’s also a great gag involving a guy who loses his glasses at an inopportune moment.
What else is on the DVD?
Quite a bit. The commentary track never degenerates to describing what you’re watching. Instead, Mike and Jay explain what their goals were (to make a movie that would have an inexplicable 45-minute long shower scene) and how that changed. They discuss working within their budget without making excuses for the results that clearly fall short of what they’d like to do. They explain how they secure the actors, locations, do the lighting and special effects. It’s actually pretty informative if you ever thought about making your own movie. The bottom line is it’s a lot of work and they’re pretty upfront about how stressful it is in the moment, but that it’s also incredibly fun and satisfying. There are also extended scenes, outtakes, trailers for their other projects and some behind the scenes footage.
I tried to be critical and honest with any potential shortcomings the film may have, but the bottom line is that I really loved it and can’t wait to share it with my friends. I will definitely be supporting Red Letter Media by picking up more of their films. It’s a well-earned 2 out of 3 thumbs from me.