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kilowog [Film Festival 06.24.10] movie review horror

Year: 2009
Directors: Joe Maggio
Writers: Joe Maggio
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: kilowog
Rating: 4 out of 10

When the name of your film is BITTER FEAST and its plot concerns a poorly reviewed chef seeking vengeance upon a caustic restaurant critic it is almost as if you are eagerly inviting a series of horrendous yet inevitable puns mocking your film. It is in this review, however, that you will not read such mockery, though that is not to say that the film isn’t deserving of it. Filmmaker, Joe Maggio’s good intentions invite us into the dark and rather sad life of New York City chef and on-air personality, Peter Gray (James LeGros). When the movie starts Peter has gotten yet another bad review for his restaurant which brings about his outright dismissal and also leaves his career as a TV chef on equally poor footing. The lonely Gray cooks dinner at home alone, and it’s here that he stews; never happy, never content and always blaming food critic blogger JT Franks played by the talented Joshua Leonard (HUMPDAY) for his sharp decline. Eager to take his frustration out on someone, Gray kidnaps Franks and holes him up in the storm shelter for his country home north and west of New York City.

This is an all too familiar tale. SWIMMING WITH SHARKS. DEATH OF A MAIDEN. The “I was wronged, so I’m going to tie up the person I feel was responsible and torture the shit out of them” story. So, how does Maggio bring a breath of fresh air to a tired concept? He simply doesn’t. What he does however is try to bring a sense of humor to it all, but here again he fails, providing us glib one-liners and jokes with punchlines that fall flat. In breaking the film down, category by category, you wonder what such acting talents were doing in film with such seemingly low aspirations . The flick is produced by Larry Fessenden, founder of Glass Eye Pix as well as its genre label, ScareFlix, and has been responsible for a number of critical and in some ways, commercial successes; WENDY AND LUCY and THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL to name, well, two. Fessenden’s Glass Eye financed BITTER FEAST, and you’re left wishing that they spent a few more dollars on the script and some of the technical aspects of the film.

Filled with a percussion-only score that seems as if it was cooked up by some guy in a closet with a set of bongos and a spoon/frying pan set, the film suffers most, however, from its visual style. Shot on what seems to be a low-resolution DV camera, the director throws out any understanding of the term cinema verite and opts for the “look what I shot in my backyard” look instead. The camera movements are often shaky and the number of times the shot falls out of focus is countless. Perhaps most distracting of all is LeGros’ performance. An actor for nearly three decades and cast in such classics as DRUG STORE COWBOY, he uses an voice affectation here that is best described as cocksure dandy with a case of mild mental retardation. It’s so off-putting that you wonder what Maggio must have been thinking during rehearsals, but after seeing the film you realize he probably just said, “That’s great, James. Go with it!”

The film is not without its quality. Leonard brings a level of intelligence that LeGros leaves at home and when you learn where his character, Franks, derives his flaming sense of cynicism you almost feel sorry for him, which of course you need to as he is in fact the protagonist.

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RIII (12 years ago) Reply

Review started out sounding like a movie my dad took me to see at the drive in and still haunts me to this day, It was also like a parody but I was to young to know the difference. The critics were killed for bad reviews in the maner of Shakespear; will never forget feeding the dogs too....

Does anybody remember "Theater of Blood" with Vincent Price?


agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

We're obviously big fans of the Glass Eye crew here, but I admit that this premise didn't fill me with too much hope when the film was announced. Even as a humorous throwback to films like "Theater of Blood" it sounded like a one note piece. I'm still curious to check it out.

Great review.

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