Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bitter Feast (2010) review


James LeGros (Peter Gray), Joshua Leonard (JT Franks), Megan Hilty (Peg), Larry Fessenden (William Coley)

Directed by Joe Maggio

The Short Version: Undercooked horror about an arrogant, but dedicated chef who loses his show due to a single review from an equally unlikable food blogger critic. Said chef decides to take revenge on this critic who can seemingly ruin restaurants and television programs with but a single negative write up.

Not long after starting up this DVD, I had made an early assumption that this was yet another 'Tie'em Up & Torture'em' movie with victims written ass backwards so that we, the viewer, hate them instead of hope they survive. BITTER FEAST upholds that new millennium tradition, but later on the film does some mild attempts at pathos for both adversaries. By the end, though, this flirtation with building a better character is undercooked resulting in an arc that falls apart during the final moments.

The plot of a mad chef avenging himself on a soulless, arrogant food critic brought to mind Douglas Hickox's THEATER OF BLOOD, the classic British horror film from 1973; a film that swaps stuffy stage play critics for the gleeful beratement of internet food critics. While Maggio's movie has little of the prime ingredients that made that earlier film such a feast for the eyes and ears, the director also sprinkles a few tablespoons too many from SAW (2004) and just a dash of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932) to add some additional flavor.

Director Joe Maggio said in an interview he got the idea for his script after reading a review from noted food critic Frank Bruni who somewhat slammed world reknowned chef Gordon Ramsay's first New York City restaurant, London Hotel. That is basically the catalyst for what follows in this picture. Sadly, there's no real build up to Gray's meltdown. No sooner than one bad review and rumors of his shows cancellation causing his career to spiral downward, and Gray has went over the deep end (a bizarre opening sequence and flashbacks reveal Gray as unexplainably unhinged from a young age). He kidnaps the complaining culinary critic, chains him up and puts him through some food challenges designed to force him to appreciate what it takes to make a mouthwatering meal.

EVOO anyone? Yummo!

Both men play a game of verbal back and forth till this modest little black pseudo satire takes up 'Stalk & Kill' motifs abandoning the 'Cooks & Critics' war of wits it tinkered with the prior 90 minutes. Speaking of chefs, Gray is saddled with a co-host, a jokey polar opposite to his persona named Peg who looks remarkably like popular TV cook, Rachel Ray. The dialog is occasionally stilted and judiciously marinated with a lot of 'F' bombs. Still, it's the best dialog Rob Zombie never wrote.

While it's not a home run, Maggio's movie has some moments of interest--a nicely maddening lead performance from James LeGros, some minor, darkly comical laughs, some so-so suspense and a few good scenes. This dish isn't quite as good as the recipe suggests, but is a decent enough appetizer for hungry horror hounds while they wait around for a suitably tastier main course.

This review is representative of the Dark Sky DVD.

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