Most film critics will tell you that a martial arts film rises or falls solely on the strength of the fight scenes and the ability of the fighters in them. Likewise there are those who will swear that horror movies depend solely upon the believability of the monsters and the special effects, and whether or not they look convincing usually comes down to one factor-- how much money was spent upon them. Then there are those of us who, while we can't help but agree with the statement regarding martial arts films, still plant out flat little feet firmly on the ground and shout into the wind of prevailing thought, "NO! Sometimes you can have a really great little horror movie with MEDIOCRE SPECIAL EFFECTS!"
Well, the time has come for me to retract that statement. Having viewed NIGHT FEEDERS, a film made in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, with local effects talent that redefines the term "amateurish" and a budget that brings new meaning to the words "minuscule", I must now say that, "Sometimes you can have a really GREAT little horror film with PATHETIC special effects." Yep. All you need are some capable actors, a nifty story, and a director who can pull things together in an unusual manner and still make them work. That's a pretty tall order, but that's exactly what Writer & Director Jet Eller has managed to do in NIGHT FEEDERS.
The first thing that Eller does is realize that what his audience wants is action. So almost from the word "Go" that's what he gives us. We're introduced to our characters in only the sketchiest of terms. In fact a meteor has crashed AND two deaths have already occurred before we even meet out main protagonists; John the Smart Guy, Andy the Young Studly Guy, Doug who has Victim written all over him, and Donnie the Redneck Slob who also seems doomed to become an alien entree. Other possible hero/victims are a young couple (he's abusive and doesn't like her stinky perfume so she winds up clocking him with a piece of wood), and a game warden named Marty who's out looking for farmer Clyde and Helen's two cows.
It's John, Andy, Doug, and Donnie who are the primary focus of the film though. Three of them are city boys, and Donnie's the only one who really seems to know which end of a gun the shot comes out of. Nonetheless they're out hunting. The only thing they've bagged by the time they make camp is the deer they hit with John's mother's car. It isn't long, and I really mean IT ISN'T LONG, before they're under siege by alien monsters whose only weakness (other than Southern Bar-B-Cue) seems to be photophobia. John concludes that the "meteor" sample he's been pondering really resembles an eggshell more than anything else, and everyone else concludes that they really want to be inside the farmhouse they passed a few miles down the road.
To say anymore would be to ruin the film, but trust me, this is literally just the beginning of an unusually enjoyable redneck romp that breaks a few of the cardinal rules of horror flix, especially in regard to structure and pacing, but still manages to come out a winner. Why? Because it really makes you care about all of these characters, and one in particular. It constantly does unexpected things, like reintroducing characters you've completely forgotten about and having them become crucial to the plot. And just when you think it's going to pull a NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on you, it doesn't. It avoids most of the cliches that other films fall into with such graceful sidesteps that you hardly notice. But as I said before, in the end this film owes much of its success to the characters and the actors who portray them. Their good ol' boy, down-home likability makes a big difference in our caring about whether or not they live or die at the the hands (and teeth) of these very crudely animated CGI creatures. The gore is somewhat limited but actually very effectively presented.
It's funny too.
HYPE Level: I'm all the hype this flick has received!
NIGHT FEEDERS Written & Directed by Jet Eller CAST: John--Brett Gentile Donnie--Donnie Evans Andy--Mike Monzitta Doug--Michael Ruff Warden--Chip Barrett Farmer Clyde--Jerry Moore Terry--Kate Leahy