Feeding Frenzy (Movie)
If you’re purchasing a copy of Feeding Frenzy (2010, Red Letter Media) you’re doing so to support one of the funniest people on the Internet, not because you’re getting a great film. I am going to assume that co-director Mike Stoklasa wouldn’t want anyone to soften their impression of his movie, unless he’s just a huge narcissist. The man sent the Internet pizza rolls, though, so I don’t think he was trying all that hard to totally buy us off.
If you’re unfamiliar with the man’s work, Mike Stoklasa developed a character called Harry S. Plinkett (or, as we call him on Caltrops, “Stroke Guy“) and used him to savage the 1994 film Star Trek Generations. Stoklasa did such a good job, he managed to change my opinion about the movie, thus making the only time anyone’s opinion about anything was ever changed thanks to Youtube. He followed the video review of Generations by breaking his dick off into the mouth of the other Next Generation Trek flicks, and then doing the same to the three Star Wars prequels. While this was going on, the viewer gained more insight to the character of narrator Harry Plinkett. If you really shouldn’t be on the net, you found those vignettes disturbing enough to wistfully dream that the reviews stopped containing them. I don’t want to unfairly put people in categories, but everyone else who was an actual adult more or less dug them, and understood that they helped distance Red Letter Media’s video reviews from an ever more-crowded field. As it turns out, the entire time Plinkett was doing horrible things in his basement and intimately sharing them, he was prepping us for a rubber monster movie.
I was 10 when Gremlins came out, which meant I was in the theater and able to be properly disappointed for Gremlins 2. However, in much the same way that a video game becomes better when your friends are playing with you, the creative team behind Feeding Frenzy (Stoklasa, Jay Bauman and Rich Evans) have a love for rubber critter movies that probably pinballed against each other, psyching each other up. Feeding Frenzy begins by giving us insight to an average evening of Harry S. Plinkett (played by Evans). And initially, everything starts out great — we’ve got Plinkett in a scene with a call girl. Oh, I mean, it’s completely abhorrent and I modified the HOSTS file on my parents’ PC over Thanksgiving so they could never see me approve of it here, but this is pretty much everything you could hope for in the first six minutes. Then we go to the hardware store, and other people start talking.
Feeding Frenzy is an independent, amateur (not meant in the condescending way) film, and that means you’re going to see many failings of the sub-genre. The acting, on the whole, is rather poor. Most scenes look like they could have used a couple days’ worth of extra rehearsal. The less a given actor or actress has to do, the better he or she seems to come off, which is understandable for a project on what we can assume is a compressed schedule fit around the lives of its creators. The toughest jobs in the film are those of the leads, Ron Lipski and Gillian Bellinger. Lipski, playing the lead in Jesse Camp, has a lot of scenes that seem like they could have used another round of screenplay edits. Before we even begin to really know him, he’s asked to roll his eyes for a couple minutes straight. On one hand, you wish Lipski had more time to digest everything being asked of him, on the other hand, I can’t remember a flick almost immediately having such open contempt for its lead. Everybody hates this Jesse guy, and you quickly get the sense that Lipski does too.
We get plenty of reasons to distrust and dislike Plinkett, but Feeding Frenzy takes a couple detours that don’t go anywhere. There’s a pillow fight scene, and no red-blooded man will take another to task for that. However, there is an inexplicable scene between Stoklasa (playing a separate character than he had so far) and Lora Story which is — well, it’s perfectly fine in a vacuum, but distracting as we just saw Stoklasa minus some face bandages a moment ago. I mean, I was able to successfully continue my evening and not jog and everything, but it was jarring. I don’t know if this was a homage to the genre of rubber monster movies or what. Feeding Frenzy has a weird way of making you feel you don’t have all the facts sometimes. That being said, Ms. Story could have really helped Harrison Ford as a voice coach in K-19: The Widowmaker, so there’s that.
As hard as it is to act and take direction in an indie film, the cast and crew aren’t helped by the monsters themselves. Teethy little mongrel spheres, we’re never quite clear how dangerous they’re really supposed to be. Jesse seemingly loses a chunk of his leg at one point, but the plot doesn’t call for him to really hobble. They look ridiculous, and that’s the point, but we’re never invited to be afraid of them. And I think that’s the biggest misstep of the film, except for a lot of the delivery: is Feeding Frenzy trying to elbow its way above Critters, Troll and Ghoulies? Just be alongside them, or something else entirely? Does it have no ambition in this regard? I can accept anything in a schlock genre as long as I get what I came in for and what defines the genre. Feeding Frenzy never quite reaches the point where the monsters make you uncomfortable.
All that being said, there is one scene in the movie that demands attention. I can say, quite categorically, that I laughed harder at it than anything else I can think of in recent memory. I don’t want to spoil anything, because it is so perfectly executed, so I will just say that it involves Jesse’s roommate, and it happens at fifty-one and a half minutes. It’s quietly set up throughout the entire movie and provides a delightful payoff to some earlier scenes that lacked any at the time. It’s my favorite bit about Feeding Frenzy, and completely got me on their side for the third act. Making the viewer laugh because you earned it is tough, and made me respect this movie, even if I can’t recommend it to all audiences without reservation.
But look, we live in a world where there’s new and exciting art being released every week. Cash Cash came out with a new album. And… God, what a time to draw a blank. OK, wait, there’s Cash Cash, and the cops got that van Gogh sketch back from that one dumb fuck who wore loafers with no socks — what I’m saying is that there’s new stuff and we can’t even get rid of the old art. You have a lot of choices, and buying a copy of Feeding Frenzy supports all the right people. I don’t regret my purchase, and Christ, that take by Jay Bauman hasn’t stopped cracking me up yet and I’ve been watching it for the last two hours. Stoklasa, Bauman and Evans do not need encouragement from various Failed Romeros reviewing their work because you can tell this stuff is in their blood. They’re going to be fine if they keep doing these and learn from each one. I’m looking forward to their next effort, and will happily tag along provided they show passion in improving their craft each time out. Feeding Frenzy is a wonderful point to get on a roller coaster ride filled to bursting with characters and creators that get a little turned on by your puking if you haven’t already.
Ice Cream Jonsey