Studio: XLrator Media
Director: Braden Croft
Writer: Braden Croft
Producer: Liz Levine, Adrian Salpeter
Stars: Shawn Roberts, Tyler Johnston, Emily Tennant, Britt Irvin, Jonathan Alexander, Tara Wilson, Aleks Paunovic
Two brothers searching for the identity of their birth parents discover that their hometown harbors a superstitious secret.
It isn¡¯t immediately clear what sinister secret lies hidden in Tendale township. Whatever it is, it frightens Janet Oates enough to entrust her baby boys Will and Kris to a relative stranger for safe passage out of town. Years later, the brothers¡¯ foster mother drops dead of a stroke, leaving behind a mysterious videotape that leads Will and Kris on a root-tracing journey back to their birthplace. Tendale doesn¡¯t have open arms for outsiders however, especially ones who made it out alive. What it does have is a cryptid creature lurking in its woods and a legend regarding sacrifice as the only way to appease these gruesome gods.
I don¡¯t know what I misread or thought I saw beforehand, but somehow I had it in my head that ¡°Feed the Gods¡± was a ¡°found footage¡± Bigfoot film. Right away, that meant it had zero chance of winning my favor, what with ¡°Exists¡± (review here), ¡°Willow Creek¡± (review here), ¡°Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes¡± (review here), and ¡°Bigfoot County¡± (review here) having already burnt that wax well beyond its wick. Nevertheless, I appreciated writer/director Braden Croft¡¯s debut thriller ¡°Hemorrhage¡± (review here) enough to warrant curiosity in his sophomore effort.
There is a hairy monster on hand, as well as a small smattering of unneeded camcorder shots, but ¡°Feed the Gods¡± is not a ¡°found footage¡± film. In fact, it really isn¡¯t a Bigfoot movie either, even though neither fact lifts it entirely off the hook as far as beaten horse premises go.
¡°Feed the Gods¡± is better described as a brother-bonding drama with a slight hint of creature feature set in a shadowy small town. While that is certainly a better backdrop than straight first-person frights featuring a monster in the woods, the whole backwoods country community harboring a centuries-old secret is equally played out as a horror movie theme in need of refreshing. It¡¯s the 21st-century. Filmgoers have been through enough Shirley Jackson-inspired setups that scenes of shifty-eyed shopkeepers grimacing at interlopers aren¡¯t nearly as ominous or as intimidating as they might have been in a pre-Stephen King saturated world.
That¡¯s a hump that ¡°Feed the Gods¡± doesn¡¯t have the momentum to burst over. The movie shows brief flashes of charm and streaks of inspiration during infrequent instances before boomeranging back to a centerline of play-it-safe basics when it comes to familiar plotting and straightforward moviemaking.
Having played date rapist Dean on ¡°Degrassi¡± and double-dealing Albert Wesker in the ¡°Resident Evil¡± films, Shawn Roberts is familiar with bad boy types, though he retains a smarmy charm that can bring out a snicker when delivering the right material. Watching him as brother Will in ¡°Feed the Gods,¡± you sense that he wants to break out of his role with something more distinct than what is called for, yet the script doesn¡¯t fully follow through on that desire. Tyler Johnston is written to be the sourpuss yang to Roberts¡¯ yin, but they¡¯re too closely aligned in abrasiveness to strike a spark that really fires their paired personalities.
A point comes just past the one-hour mark where ¡°Feed the Gods¡± turns the tone on its ear and suddenly accelerates into hectic humor. The first leg of the denouement then rolls through a series of chaotic comedy bits that are entertaining, but so tonally opposed to the previous 60 minutes that it feels like ¡°Feed the Gods¡± falls into a different movie.
Either unsure of what direction to commit to, or uncertain how to take the film there, ¡°Feed the Gods¡± flip-flops in a way that juxtaposes what could have been against what is. Had ¡°Feed the Gods¡± carried that same irreverent attitude and fun-fueled vibe from the get-go, the hook could have been unique enough to rope in a recommendation. But that trepidation to keep things calm everywhere else keeps creativity from bubbling all the way up to the brim.
¡°Feed the Gods¡± is a fine enough film for what it is, but its cruise control speed keeps it coasting in territory that is never truly thrilling, and not original enough to stand out. Here¡¯s hoping that the third time is a charm, because while ¡°Feed the Gods¡± is not it, a breakout film exists if filmmaker Braden Croft takes the artistic risks to find it.
NOTE: There is a mid-credits scene.
Review Score: 50