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By Pete Vonder Haar | September 24, 2006

Among the pearls of hard-earned wisdom I intend to pass along to my offspring, advising them to avoid lonely rural drinking establishments will be near the top of the list. If “Porky’s,” “Near Dark,” “Road House,” and “From Dusk ‘til Dawn” have taught us anything, it’s that no good ever comes from stopping in at that isolated highway saloon for a cold one. You’re better off at a place like T.G.I. Friday’s, where the overwhelming atmosphere of suburban blandness likely keeps the creatures of the night at bay, or better yet, drinking at home.

The characters in “Feast” probably wish they’d just picked up a six-pack at the local gas station instead of heading to the “Beer Tap.” Situated in the middle of nowhere (or West Texas, close enough), populated by a collection of misfits and unsavory types no one will miss, and conveniently bereft of any cell phone coverage, the bar is the perfect setting for a prolonged, bloody assault by a group of toothy mutants (or aliens, or chupacabra, the movie never tells us) with a jones for human flesh and an unsettling habit of snatching people through walls and closed windows.

We’re introduced to our buffet of victims in unique style, as each cast member is presented with accompanying text giving their nickname (“Hero,” “Grandma,” “Bozo”), occupation, and life expectancy. Such an obvious goof on horror movie cliché nets some laughs, but might lead you to think you’re in for another excruciating post-modern genre wankfest. Such concern is unwarranted, happily, and the audience finds out rather quickly that everything presented in the first five minutes was a diversion, and absolutely no character is safe.

Setting an entire movie in one building is a fine idea from a budget standpoint, but without interesting characters and a few somewhat believable plot twists, it can become tiresome pretty quickly. Fortunately, all the actors appear to be having a blast. Of greatest note are Duane Whitaker as the bar’s sleazebag owner, Clu Gulager, who I half expected to mutter something about being “too old for this s**t” as he nailed boards over windows for the umpteenth time in his 50-year career, Judah Friedlander (who epitomizes “wrong place at the wrong time”) and Krista Allen. I must admit, as much as I disapprove of Allen’s dramatic weight loss, her character (“Tuffy”) comes across like “Lost’s” Evangeline Lilly on crank. She comports herself well as an action hero here, much more so than some of her more masculine comrades.

There are a few minor problems. For example, I kept waiting for someone to point out that the bar’s cellar appeared to be reinforced concrete, which one assumes would be better for keeping out pesky mutants. It’s also established that the creatures breed with alarming rapidity, but this goes nowhere. And finally, some of the infighting rings a little hollow, though I suppose allowances can be granted for a bunch of people who’ve been watching their friends get devoured for a few hours.

“Feast” was apparently the last movie developed under the aegis of the “Project Greenlight” TV show, which might elicit some commentary from me if I ever watched it. Or cared. I’m sure the Affleck-Damon-Weinstein connection had something to do with getting recognizable faces like Rollins and Jason Mewes, but apart from the handy publicity it affords, the filmmakers appear to have been left alone to do their stuff.

This is a superior horror film. It hits hard and fast, letting up only to inject some black humor and amp up the tension again before coming back for more. “Feast” is nasty, brutish, and short, just like Hobbes said all horror flicks should be.

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