Feed Me [Grimmfest Review]: Cannibal Companionship
Grief is an intense emotion, one that can make people do strange and obscure things, some turn to drugs and alcohol, and some hide away from the world, but not many befriend a cannibal. That, however, is exactly what Jed (Christopher Mulvin) does after the loss of his wife. Their relationship may have been estranged towards the end, reflected in Jed’s loving but dark eulogy, but his love for her never left, she did, and now he is thinking of doing the same. Until he is given an unsettling, weird and intriguingly disturbing proposition by a Hawaiian-shirted American stranger who wants to help him ‘Leave the weight of the world behind.’
Lionel (Neal Ward) is a big fan of obituaries and likes to visit people’s funerals, he finds them calming, and when he hears Jed talk about his wife, a woman who judged him for loving her as she only saw herself as something horrid, he wants to help him. Haunted by his memories of Liv (Samantha Loxley), and drowning in desperation and torment, Jed agrees to follow through on Lionel’s plan to ‘assist’ his suicide. It seems only fitting after his wife died from an eating disorder that if she was eaten from the inside out he should be eating from the outside in. Human consumption, a craving and condition Lionel suffers from that Jed can help with by heroically sacrificing his body. He is promised that this selfless act will leave him happy when he dies. A good death and a mutual agreement.
As an idea, Feed Me is absolutely absurd, completely unbelievable and put simply an insane proposition. It shouldn’t work at all! The performances of these two lead characters, however, make all the decisions of the narrative seem completely exceptional. Feed Me is a wild and darkly comical premise that should not work but absolutely excels. Not only because of the excellent directing from the duo Adam Leader and Richard Oakes but, also because of the utterly convincing and committed performances from everyone involved and the tone-perfect design from the art team. Once everything about this world is accepted the film becomes one hell of a wild ride. A ride that is worth every penny of admission.
At the heart of this cannibalistic, horror comedy are the ultimate odd couple, Lionel and Jed. Picture a serial killer, just draw the image into your mind. I’m guessing it looks exactly like Lionel. With a handlebar moustache, horn-rimmed glasses, floppy ridiculous hair, yellow rain mac and an over-the-top Texas accent he is the poster boy for murderers and the perfect mix of unsettling and fascinating. He lives in a soiled, yellow-tinted house, decorated with newspaper-covered windows and disturbingly hilarious erotic art, including a giant canvas portrait of his deceased mother that, although creative, could lead to one thinking he has a slight Oedipus complex. But the strangest part of this unsettling house? The suspended fishbowl above the dining room table. The whole place just screams “I’m not fucking okay”!
“Feed Me is a buddy horror comedy, but one of the buddies wants to die and the other wants to eat him. It is unpredictable, deranged, sardonic, genuinely heartfelt and absolutely hilarious.”
Juxtaposing his eccentric and exaggerated design is the down-and-out Jed. He is wallowing in sadness and it seeps from him in every scene, justifying his self-destructive actions. He is haunted by images of his dead wife and sinks into a nightmare realm of melancholy every time he drifts to sleep, or passes out from the pain of giving his body to Lionel. His depression grounds the insanity of the film.
Feed Me expertly balances these two lead characters just as well as its dual tones and hybrid genre. It’s the blend of these two worlds, the gothic fantasy nightmares, shrouded in cold colours looking like every music video I was obsessed with in the early 2000s, to the sickly yellow glow of Lionel’s putrid real world, covered in blood and just about every other fluid one would cringe at, that had me in awe of its visuals and cinematography. The small details of the world of this film are what make the eclectic humour and the absurd darkness land so well, everything is just two degrees off but not enough to completely derail the whole film.
Tension and gore are not lacking in this horror comedy at all. Each limb removal gets bloodier and more brutal as the house gets grimmer and grimier. If the TV series Hannibal has us all salivating during the untraditional cooking scenes and questioning our own moral compasses at how delicious everything looked, then Feed Me is its antithesis. Watching the process of Lionel searing a finger or grilling a leg in his filthy kitchen generates queasy unease and has the audience laughing yet nauseated. Jed’s pain-filled screams draw the attention of the police, bringing some anxiety to the narrative, and Lionel’s nappy waddle run and strange allure even allows for a minor romantic subplot, but at its core, it’s all about these two men and their brutal bonding.
Feed Me is a buddy horror comedy, but one of the buddies wants to die and the other wants to eat him. It is unpredictable, deranged, sardonic, genuinely heartfelt and absolutely hilarious. The entire cast and crew worked perfectly together and it’s clear this energy comes from their companionship and frequent collaboration with each other. Captivating performances, beautiful colour design, excellently timed humour and plenty of gore, this is a real fleshy treat of a film that balances its humour and horror incredibly. Even with underlying nausea, I am left hungry for more from this gruesome team.