Night Feeders (2006)
Written and directed by Jet Eller
If not for being shot on digital and the CGI monsters, you'd probably swear that Night Feeders had been made back sometime in the 1970s. There's just something about the film's simplistic premise, rural setting, and average Joe actors that brings to mind the sort of regionally produced low budget horror movies that would make the rounds on the drive-in circuit back in the decade of disco and polyester. A monster-in-the-woods movie built around four redneck hunters played by guys that actually look like redneck hunters instead of the usual gang of vacuous, photogenic twentysomethings can actually be a refreshing change of pace.
One thing that isn't a change of pace is the film's plot. Meteorites crash in the woods of some rural Southern community, bringing with them a pack of nocturnal, man-eating alien beasties. This all happens just in time for a group of hunters to trek into these woods for what they hoped would be a good old boys weekend of hunting and beer drinking. There's also the sheriff, an old local whose cows have come up missing, and an abused woman who has a fateful showdown with her abusive other. The main storyline... There really isn't much by way of plot or characterizations. The aliens come out at night and the four hunting buddies quickly realize they're the ones being hunted. Kill or be killed; that's about all there is to it.
All is well for about the first 35 minutes. I described Night Feeders as having a Seventies regional drive-in feel to it, a homespun charm that's often lacking in today's do-it-yourself-on-digital moviemaking age. Once they arrive at a house in the woods, Night Feeders starts to lose some of that luster and becomes just another routine "people trapped in a cabin in the woods being stalked by a creature" movie that I've seen far too many of. Characters tend to the wounded, argue amongst themselves, try to come up with an escape plan, and fight to keep the monsters from getting into the house. This constitutes about a 25-minute stretch that just dragged on too long for my tastes. It lacks the energy the first act had going for it.
Things pick up for the third act, when the plot takes a bit of a deviation from what's expected, not the least of which being my least favorite character turning out to be the one that steps up into the leading man position. This kind of annoyed me at first. Then I realized that I was actually watching a movie where a big fat semi-illiterate redneck was not only the hero of the film, he even gets the girl in the end. You don't see that very often. I don't think I've ever seen that before now that I think about it.
Night Feeders also feels like it's missing the all-out assault scene that movies like Critters and Gremlins boasted. The big alien assault at the end isn't quite the spectacle it should be. The climax even sets the stage for an even bigger throwdown only to - let's just say that while it is comical, it's also more than a little anti-climactic. It’s an amusing ending, but it’s also a cheat.
As for the aliens, they look like three-foot hybrids of your traditional grey alien and some sort of bipedal frog creature with big teeth. They're brought to life predominantly through the use of CGI with mixed results. Eller wisely keeps them semi-shrouded in darkness much of the time and shows them only in very quick spurts. Still, there's no getting around that a lot of the animation appears very much homemade, often not the least bit convincing. Given the obvious very low budget Eller was working with - the film opens with what almost looks like a flash animation sequence of an orbiting satellite being struck by one of the meteors - it's a Catch-22: Either you use obvious puppetry or obvious CGI. This ultimately kills any genuine attempts to generate suspense. Kind of hard to be scared when the threat doesn't seem real. However, there is one brief moment where one of the alien creatures walks into a room lit by a flickering fire that's quite a cool little shot and just a tad on the creepy side.
Fortunately, what Night Feeders lacks in budget, it makes up for with a little old fashioned creature feature fun. Night Feeders doesn't bring anything new to the table or do anything particularly inventive with the concept. It's just a monster movie, plain and simple, that evokes the feel of a bygone era with some modest success. You'll either be moderately entertained or left completely cold.
2 1/2 out of 5
Discuss Night Feeders in our forums!