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