Monday, September 22, 2014

A Study in Red(necks)

World O' Crap's Creature Feature host Hank Parmer (stage name, Grouchomarxist) is back. After authoring what most cineastes agree are the definitive treatises on Jack the Giant Killer (2013, not to be confused with the 1962 movie of the same name, nor, in fact, with movies as a medium) and Frogs (not to be be confused with "frogs," because they're toads), Professor Parmer brings the same scholarly rigor to his monograph on Night Feeders, a meditation on Appalachians versus Aliens (you probably know it best as the film in which Bob Beaver plays "Bubba," and "Catfish" essays the rĂ´le of "Redneck").

Night Feeders (2006)
Director: Jet Eller
Writer: Jet Eller

Night Feeders opens with a crudely CGI'd satellite orbiting serenely above the earth. Suddenly, from the depths of space a rogue meteor scores a direct hit on it! Yee haw, that sucker blowed up real good!

Somewhere in the wilds of North Carolina, a very authentically scary-rough-looking woman is watching tv. Suddenly, it loses the signal. Disgusted, she steps out on the front porch and yells at Roy to come fix the tv. Roy's out in the yard working on his red pickup truck, while his two buddies stand around watching. He yells back that he's busy fixin' the truck. She goes back into house, returns with a couple of pots and throws them on the lawn, declaring "I'll fix your supper when you fix the damn tv!" What a charming comedy of manners, in the Southern white trash mode.

Suddenly, a meteor streaks across the sky. "What the hell is that?" asks one of Roy's buddies. They can't decide: is it a meteor or a plane? It begins to break up.

Cutaway to two more rednecks. One's reading the latest Bargain Hunter -- yes, they're trying to see exactly how many rural cliches they can pack into the movie before the opening credits begin to roll. The other redneck points at the meteor pieces as they whiz overhead.

Two good ol' boys are fishing in a jon boat. A big chunk of meteor plops into the water nearby, creating a ludicrously out-of-scale superimposed splash.

"Did you see that?" exclaims one of the G.O.B.s. His buddy replies, "It must be a UFO!" and chatters wistfully about alien abductions and anal probes. Meanwhile, the other good ol' boy takes his glass-bottom bucket and peers down into the water. Something that looks a lot like a really big mud puppy swims beneath the boat. The boat flips over, and the G.O.B.s are immediately pulled under while the water turns red. Close-up of shredded life preserver. Wait a minute: I thought these alien nasties were supposed to be night feeders? Or was this their equivalent of a midnight snack?

Credits run: writer and director -- Jet Eller. Oh joy, we're about to be treated to this filmmaker's intensely personal vision. Creature effects by “Cactus Dan” -- I'm getting a bad feeling about this …

Four guys are standing around in the woods, next to a car with a very dead deer draped across the trunk. There's weedy guy, Doug, and handsome Italian-looking guy, Andy. John, the pudgy guy with the stupid sideburns, is almost in tears because they've wrecked his mom's car, which still has deer bits dangling from its stove-in grill. Andy, who was driving when they hit the deer, assures him that a little Bondo and paint and it'll look fine. Donnie -- we'll get to him in a minute -- says they should have borrowed John's mom's pickup. John reiterates "for the fourth time" that his mom wouldn't let them use her pickup truck -- they were lucky to get the car.

Now, the other three are city boys, but Donnie's different. He's a simple man, a dweller on the land, the common clay of the New South. You know: a moron. (Not to imply any other character in this movie is the sharpest butter knife in the drawer.) He's a big ol' boy, slow talkin' and slow movin', always ready with the sort of homespun commentary that makes your fingers itch for the nearest blunt object.

However, it's my belief that this amiable exterior is only a sinister pretense. For instance, he's had to have it explained to him about the pickup four times? He's reminded everybody what a pathetic loser his long-time "friend" John is four times on this trip so far, and this is just the first day? Nobody's that dumb, not even a featured columnist at Pajamas Media.

(There's another thing you should know about Donnie: the actor's real name is "Donnie". Apparently, writer/director Eller was so taken with this quirky real-life character that he just had to craft an entire movie around him. And odds are Donnie has trouble picking up his cues, if he's addressed by anything other than his own name.)

The boys get their gear together and prepare to hike to their campsite. Donnie's worried about snakes -- which is of course a natural segue to Andy's Wildean bon mot about the big guy's trouser snake, which he probably hasn't seen since sometime before the second Reagan administration.

Cut to a game warden, who drops in on elderly guy Clyde and his wife at their farm house. Clyde is fiddling under the hood of his SUV: it's cranky and won't start.

Clyde takes the game warden to where his fence has been broken. His cows and his dog disappeared last night without a trace. Clyde then shows the game warden the big chunk of meteor that landed in his pasture. The game warden enthuses about the meteorite probably being billions of years old. Clyde says he doesn't give a damn, if it doesn't make his cows produce more milk. The game warden takes a piece of meteor as a souvenir, but leaves before the dairy farmer can further elaborate on his lacto-centric concept of the universe.

New characters enter: Churlish Redneck and his girlfriend, Terry. C.R.'s at the wheel of some kind of 70s' gas guzzler, bitching at her about wasting money on perfume. Churlish and cheap: what a catch, huh, ladies? He says it makes her smell like a whore. She retorts that it's better than smelling like a drunk. By way of a witty rejoinder, he slams her head against the dashboard a couple of times. C.R. hits the brakes and pulls the car over. Terry gets out, backs away from the car and pulls a pistol out of her handbag. He advances on her menacingly.

She pulls the trigger: oops, he removed the clip! He picks up a handy piece of kindling from the roadside, and chases her into the woods. C.R. loses sight of her, and after a while wanders up to a lake. (Let me guess: it's Meteor Critter Lake.) As he's standing by the shore, Terry sneaks up behind him and smacks him in the back of the head with a branch. He staggers into the lake, falls face-forward into the water, and instantly sinks. Terry has second thoughts, and wades in after him. She takes a deep breath and goes diving for dipsticks.

Sunset. Back at the deer hunters' camp, everybody's hanging out around the campfire. Andy suggests they should get to the deer stand by 4:30 AM. Donnie declares if they try to wake his ass up at four in the morning deer ain't the only thing that's gonna get shot.

Donnie has a big Tupperware container of his super-yummy "special stew". Just like the movie, it's a revolting mess. Donnie says he won't let anybody see him preparing it. Just what are those secret ingredients, anyway, and why is he so adamant about cooking it in private?

Now we find out John's a rock hound: his collection is insured for $200,000. He's a substitute teacher, too. Who lives with his mom. Could he possibly get any more pathetic? More folk humor, as Donnie admits he's never seen Jurassic Park -- he calls it "Jerastic Park". When John fills him in on the plot of the movie, Donnie claims he and his redneck buddies would have cleaned that island out fast.

(Donnie's always talking about his redneck buddies -- as opposed to these high-toned city boys he's hanging out with -- but I have a hard time believing Donnie has any friends, as opposed to people who just keep him around to have someone to look at when they're feeling particularly bad about themselves.)

Donnie proceeds to show ignorant city-boy John his foolproof method for starting a fire, naturally involving gasoline. He nearly sets both of them aflame. A real laugh riot, this. Then he starts to eat his stew, direct from the container. It's roughly the consistency of a slab of congealed-but-not-quite-hardened silicone sealant. "I guess it needs more water ..." What a loveable goof!

Doug borrows Donnie's rod and reel and goes night fishing. Our lucky foursome has chosen to camp near Meteor Critter Lake, natch. The bait's nibbled at tentatively, then the rod's yanked out of his hands. Something lunges up out of the lake and chases Doug into the woods.

Back to the camp. Andy thinks he hears something. He decides he ought to return to the car and cover up the deer carcass. (It's a well-known fact that if you throw a tarp over your kill, scavengers can't find it because they can't see it!) John tells him to do the smart thing: take the carcass a mile down the road and dump it.

Back to Doug getting chased through the woods. He pauses to catch his breath. Then he sees something moving in the shadows. He takes to his heels again, and miraculously blunders out onto the road, where he's almost run over by our friend the game warden. Doug tells the game warden something was after him; he thinks it's an alligator, but the warden's skeptical. (Guess he never saw Lake Placid.)

He gives Doug a ride back to John's borrowed car, where they meet up with Andy. The game warden follows them back to their camp, and checks everyone's hunting licenses. Then he tells them about the meteorite, and gives John his piece of it, probably out of pity for his dweebishness. He returns to his car, and drives off with, of course, a shadowy critter in the back seat. (Horror film cliche No. 2) You know what's going to happen next, right? But he's only lightly savaged. He stops the car, leaps out and runs around to the trunk. At which point he's jumped by the critter. Close-up of keys dangling from the trunk lock while the game warden screams, off-camera.

I think I'd have tried using my pistol first, rather than going for a tire iron. But whatever.

Back to the camp: Doug tells the others he was chased away from the lake by a mysterious beastie that came up out of the water and followed him through the woods. Donnie scoffs at his story, says it was a beaver. Then they spy something lurking in the woods around the campsite. They can't make out many details, just that the critters have big eyes; Doug says they've got arms like a Praying Mantis.

Giant insect-like alien predators might have actually been frightening. Unfortunately, the best "Cactus Dan" could manage is a sort of stiffly-animated cross between a chupacabra and an alien Grey. Except these critters are a uniform dark olive-green. (Little green men ... get it? Eller, you scamp!)

John thinks the critters aren't attacking because they're bothered by the light. Then the boys hear some noise from the direction of their car. So what do they do but leave their nice, well-lit camp, where they have guns and lots of ammo, and even some gasoline they can splash on the fire when they need a little extra illumination. They discover their prized roadkill has been mostly and messily devoured. (Donnie smothers a burp, surreptitiously wipes the corner of his mouth.) John examines the remains and finds a black fang embedded in the deer entrails. He shows it to his buddies.

Well, 'round about now them Dunce boys are figurin' it's high time to get the hell out of there, so they pile into the car. Donnie concedes it's not a beaver. Andy's at the wheel again, so of course he totals the car right off the bat: thinking he has it in reverse when it's actually in forward, he guns it and rams a tree. Andy's more than a bit of a fuck-up, but that's hardly a unique characteristic in this bunch.

Donnie shoots a critter through the car window. The boys realize they're almost out of ammo, so Andy volunteers to go back to camp for more. His "friends" let him go by himself. There are four of these big manly deer hunters, and the aliens -- of which they've so far only seen two or three -- are no larger than your average skinny ten-year-old. And if you run out of ammo, those shootin' irons could be used as clubs, right?

After Andy leaves, Donnie opines the boy's a dumbass, which is particularly rich since just a few minutes ago our hero was bragging to John about the terrible, horrible things he'd do to anyone who dared threaten his kinfolk or friends. Andy makes it to the camp, discovers our light-hating critters have destroyed the lanterns and trashed their gear. He fights off an attack by one of them with his camera flash. Then he improvises a torch, gathers some ammunition and heads back into the woods.

Meanwhile, back at the car, John occupies the time with some clumsy exposition: the critters must be light-sensitive because their eyes are super-sized. He deduces their connection to the meteorite, outlines his contributions to a Unified Field Theory and illustrates why the Trilateral Commission has to be behind the otherwise inexplicable popularity of the Kardashians.

Andy returns to the car. "There's probably about ten of them out there!" he tells his mates. Superlative woodcraft there, Andy! Not many city boys could come up with such a definite estimate, by torchlight, while booking it through the woods.

Andy convinces the others they're dead meat if they stay in the car. But there's that house they passed a couple of miles back up the road. "Two miles -- we can do that in 20 minutes!" he predicts confidently. Yeah, and after about three minutes at that pace, Donnie's heart would explode like a defective party balloon.

They set off down the road. They find the game warden's car. In another stark reminder of exactly how rock-stupid these guys are, Doug doesn't even bother to shine a flashlight into the car before he sticks his head through the driver's window. There's a critter in there, natch, and it attacks Doug. The boys grab his legs and manage to pull him out. Well, most of him, anyway. It's not like he needs that left arm for anything important.

Donnie blows the critter away. There aren't any keys in the ignition, and of course nobody thinks to check the trunk. And nobody knows how to hot-wire a car. They wrap Doug's stump and help him to his feet. It's only a flesh wound, after all.

They somehow make it to the house. It looks deserted, except for some pieces of Clyde's wife in the kitchen. Donnie seems strangely at ease in these blood-smeared surroundings. Why, it's just like special stew night at his place!

John decides they should cauterize Doug's stump. Andy finds a jar of moonshine; they let Doug take a few sips before they proceed with the cauterizing -- while he's still holding the jar. Lots of 180-proof alcohol slopping around near an open flame sounds like a great idea to me! You know, it's really remarkable that any of these fools made it to adulthood.

While Donnie stays with Doug, Andy and John go to investigate a noise. (Note that they've left half-conscious Doug conveniently positioned in a chair, right in front of a window.) They find Clyde, who's been hiding in a closet. He confesses he abandoned his wife when the aliens first attacked, and feels pretty bad about that. He refuses to leave now without all the bits of her. So John and Clyde sneak outside. Clyde thinks they must have dragged some of her into that outbuilding. He peers around the door, sees a critter and suddenly decides maybe the parts he's got are enough.

Clyde remembers his SUV is out of gas: they've got to get more from the garage. Clyde gets ambushed in the garage, his foot chewed off and throat shredded by another critter. John drags him back to the kitchen. Andy has a bright idea: put Clyde out in the yard to decoy the critters while they escape. (So he's a sociopath, as well as a fuck-up at critical moments. Now, remind me again: why are we supposed to care what happens to these people?)

Donnie's horrified -- ostensibly because Clyde's still alive, but I think he's really more concerned with the waste of toothsome vittles. There's plenty of good meat left on the other leg. Donnie says they're all going to Hell -- a sentiment with which I'm certain the audience can agree wholeheartedly by this point. Fortunately, Clyde resolves this tricky moral conundrum for them by dying.

As was utterly predictable, the critters yank Doug through the window. (No. 5 in the list of horror film cliches.) John blazes away at the window. Andy suggests it's time to bug out. Just for good measure, Donnie bravely wastes some more ammo on the window. They toss Clyde's body out in the yard, but the critters devour him so quickly the boys can't take advantage of the distraction.

"Man, we wasted Clyde!" laments Donnie. He may have looked a bit stringy, but with a little Adolph's tenderizer ...  (This is kind of off the subject, but maybe if they'd just stopped feeding them, the critters wouldn't have hung around.) Then the critters manage to knock out the electricity, so the boys make up some more torches and try for the SUV.

They make it, but then Andy realizes he left his camera inside. He runs back into the house. What, he's afraid someone will find those crotch-rocket selfies? When he doesn't return, John and Donnie go back inside and see what's left of Andy scattered around the parlor. No critters, though. Apparently they like to eat and run.

Donnie and John head back to the SUV. A critter leaps off the roof onto John's back. John's knocked down and dragged off, around the front of the SUV. Donnie's paralyzed with something or other. Just before he's pulled out of sight, John spits up a little blood, and favors Donnie with a last look that fairly screams "You are such a useless load!"

Donnie squeezes into the SUV. It won't start -- remember, it's got electrical troubles. But Donnie survives the rest of the night completely unscathed. So I guess the boys could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they'd just stayed in John's mom's car. Although, come to think of it, if I were faced with the prospect of spending a night in close quarters with Donnie, being simultaneously disemboweled and torn limb-from-limb by a bunch of piranha aliens might seem a far more merciful alternative. Especially if you couldn't crack a window.

As to why the critters left him alone, the best I can figure is that after scarfing down two good ol' boys, a herd of cows, a dog, a beefy, abusive boyfriend, a deer, a game warden, an elderly couple and Donnie's three friends, they thought: “Whoa! There's no need to get greedy. We'd better save Donnie for tomorrow.”

That, or they're watching their cholesterol.

Next morning, Donnie gathers up the people scraps and buries them all together. At least, that's what the director wants us to believe, but I'm not convinced: Donnie would have had the makings for one awfully tempting batch of his famous special stew.

Regardless, Donnie promises everyone he'll be back, and walks off, mumbling to himself. He talks to himself a lot.

Donnie decides against trying to hoof it out of there -- he's still recovering from last night's punishing two-mile trek, after all, and he's already blown a good part of the day scraping up and burying body parts and soliloquizing. So he pretends to work on the SUV for a while, then gives up, and starts looking in the garage for some wood to board up the house. He finds an alien hiding in a cardboard box, and shoots it while it grovels helplessly in the sun's glare. He kicks it a few times, and shoots it some more. Conserve his ammo? What are you, some kind of pussy?

Surprise! Terry -- you remember her, right? -- isn't dead meat after all; she spent the night hiding in another outbuilding. It seems she survived her dip in Meteor Critter Lake, even though she felt them bumping against her in the water. She says she thinks her perfume repelled them.

When Donnie tells her about the SUV not starting, Terry claims to have picked up a few things from her "asshole mechanic" boyfriend. (Probably including an STD or three.) It's difficult to see how helpful these proctological pointers are going to be when it comes to dealing with a balky electrical system, but she seems pretty insistent. So Donnie wanders off to fortify the house.

She can't fix it either. While Donnie dozes at the wheel of the SUV, he has a bad dream which will turn out to be semi-prophetic. (Cliche #17) Night falls: the critters are back. Terry squirts him with her perfume. She says that's just in case it was what prevented them from attacking her earlier, but I suspect Donnie must be getting pretty rank by now.

His half-assed attempt to fortify the house was of course a complete bust, consisting as it did of nailing a couple of flimsy boards crosswise on a few ground-floor windows, while leaving plenty of room for critters to squeeze through. Somebody -- probably Terry -- set oil drums with fires in them around the house, but a sudden downpour drowns the flames. When the critters get into the house, Donnie and Terry retreat to the SUV. In all the excitement, Terry forgets to roll up her window.

The critters rock the SUV, while Donnie desperately cranks the engine. In a superb exhibition of dead-on comic timing, Clyde's vehicle demonstrates why it's the best actor in this dog: the hood slams down, and suddenly the electrics come on! It starts! This entire damn movie has been a setup for this one stupid joke.

A critter reaches through the window and claws Terry's neck -- so much for the perfume hypothesis -- as they drive off.

Terry wakes up in the hospital. Donnie's there; he tells her he asked an intern if there was any news about the hunting reserve. Nope, all they've heard is that a meteor fell there. It's not like all those people disappearing while leaving behind a blood-spattered -- hell, drenched -- house and a couple of cars would be newsworthy. This is North Carolina.

Donnie warns Terry that if they try to inform the authorities about the critters, nobody will believe them. It's not like anyone's ever going to ask Donnie what happened to those “friends”, right?

Donnie shyly asks Terry if she'd like to go to a movie with him sometime, and is justifiably amazed when she accepts. Woo-hoo! It looks like he'll finally have a real girlfriend. (Somewhere, a heifer is crying her heart out.) But first, he tells her, he has to take care of some business.

That special stew always loosens him up something fierce.

Cut to: Donnie and his redneck buddies, with a bunch of bikers, brandishing firearms as they head out of town for some alien hunting. (Donnie probably told them they're going after illegal aliens.) In the course of which, if things go as they ordinarily do on these sort of excursions, there'll be two knife fights, five shootings -- four of them accidental -- about a dozen cases of alcohol poisoning and at least one O.D. on meth.


When all's said and done, though, I bet Donnie will be the lone survivor of this group, too. And I wouldn't be surprised if he had one big honkin' tubful of his delicious special stew.

9 comments:

Carl said...

Needs moat banjo.

Carl said...

Well, MOAR banjo, but moat banjo would so be the name of my grunge bluegrass band.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I see you and raise, Carl. (IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME!!11!)

Needs MOAR shitmoat banjo.
~

Scott said...

Personally, I'd rather watch a horror movie written and directed by Aunt Eller (Poor Jud is Dead II: The Haystackening).

Anonymous said...

I think Carl just invented a new instrument.

--Sour Kraut

Weird Dave said...

I'm rooting for the visiting team.

Gary McCammon said...

Now we find out John's a rock hound: his collection is insured for $200,000. He's a substitute teacher, too. Who lives with his mom. Could he possibly get any more pathetic?

Well, he is in this movie, so I'd say no.

acrannymint said...

If this shows up twice, I apologize

Don't underestimate beaver attacks

grouchomarxist said...

acrannymint:

I stand corrected. Too bad it's not the early 1970s: a gaggle of obnoxious timber magnates besieged on their private island by a horde of killer beavers would have been an irresistible pitch to the execs at American International Pictures.