Judge David Johnson had a run-in with a vicious zombie once. But that's a story for another day.
End of the world—news at 11.
Shock-o-Rama Cinema presents yet another entry into the ever-growing zombie playlist. Does Feeding the Masses bring anything new to the table, or is it yet another tired creature gnawing on the emaciated corpse of the genre?
Facts of the Case
Our film is set in a time when the United States is facing an imminent zombie threat. The Lazarus Virus has been reanimating dead bodies and shuffling them off to terrorize the living as flesh-chomping undead.
The media, however, is intent on controlling the situation, by downplaying the epidemic and broadcasting false assertions of safety. The gullible public, unaware of the truth or the anti-zombie blogs, venture outside to their doom.
Channel 5 News is one of the major outlets pulling the wool over the eyes of the media-consuming masses. Working for station is feisty cameraman Torch (William Garberina, The Stink of Flesh) and his roving reporter blonde bombshell cohort Shelly (Rachel Morris). Torch is fed up with the deception, and he decides to take to the zombie-infested streets with his camera and shine the light of truth on the media blackout. Blood and sinew and biting parody ensue.
The use of zombies as fodder for social commentary was perfected by George A. Romero and has been utilized in force by director Richard Griffin and writer Trent Haige in this film. First and foremost, Feeding the Masses is a comedy. And it's a pretty funny one at that. The successful parody elements draw strength from the film's overt statements on climate-of-fear paranoia. For example, intermingled with the narrative are several amusing mock commercials. My favorite advertises a reclamation and burial service that promise to hunt down your zombified loved one, re-kill it, and give it a proper burial. The closing shot, a "dramatization" clip of a guy looking at a tombstone, was hilarious.
The comedic elements of the film manage to work partly because of the performance by the film's lead, William Gerberina. The guy is charismatic and sells his role like crazy. I'll go one step further: He achieves the impossible, creating a loud, bawdy comic character in a horror movie who doesn't come across as an irritating jackass. He is owed much for the effectiveness of this movie.
What about the splatter element? The gore is fairly limited, considering the genre, but what's here is decent enough. Lots of gunplay ends in lots of exploding squibs, some hapless victims get bits of flesh ripped off by marauding zombies, and a head wound or two erupt in a red geyser. Pretty typical, but nothing any zombie nut hasn't seen before.
So the comedy works and the gore is serviceable. The last major element at work in this film is the social commentary aspect, and it is by far the most visible. Feeding the Masses is by no means subtle in its societal subtext. The ideas of manipulation by the mass media, existing amid paranoia, and even statements on racism are explicit and obvious; prepare to be bludgeoned by messages by the basketful. I'll admit some of the gags were clever (street punks tormenting zombies, for example), but for the most part I felt I was in the presence of an overly pushy used-car salesman. Overall, I enjoyed Feeding the Masses because of its sharp wit and the capable performances. The too-forced slices of social commentary—while apparently the filmmakers' focus—left me cold.
Feeding the Masses was shot in digital, and it looks better because of it. While it's obviously a low-budget film, the visual quality is crisp and clean and betrays nothing about how tiny the dollar amount was to make the film. Sound, a front-loaded 2.0 stereo mix, unfortunately isn't anything terribly special.
Shock-o-Rama has stuffed this disc with a good amount of extras for your consumption. A raucous commentary track by the filmmakers is a lot of fun. When they're not poking fun at the production values, they're offering some nice insight into the making of low-budget horror. Adding to this is a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette detailing the set design, makeup and gore effects, and the off-camera shenanigans of the cast and crew. Finally, two weird black-and-white Shock-o-Rama film shorts are included.
I'm going to recommend this film with mild reservations. Gore-hounds and fans of subtlety will likely come away unimpressed, but I found Feeding the Masses an entertaining zombie romp.
Not guilty. Chow down.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Ventura Distribution
• Filmmakers' Commentary
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