Television shows like Ghost Hunters or Man Vs. Wild put their audiences in a strange, often morally ambiguous position. Viewers sitting snugly on their couches want to see real danger, but the concept of watching an actual person mauled by a tiger or bruised by the paranormal is simply horrifying.
At the same time, these kinds of daredevil reality programs give us a sort of free reign over our dark sides. Aren’t these colorful hosts asking to be confronted with the worst of the worst, and more importantly, don’t they want us to watch?
Steven Gibson’s debut feature, The Feed, enthusiastically jumps on the trendy found ghost footage subgenre popularized by the success of Paranormal Activity. Modeling itself after the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters, The Feed follows the live broadcast of the not-so-subtly named Ghost Chasers as its crew investigates the haunting of a restored classic cinema in Pennsylvania.
Ghost Chasers boasts the typical cast you’d find on a cable reality hunt: a talky host, maybe-flaky psychic, two geeky young guys, the level-headed female, and the tech-savvy laid-back veteran who probably keeps a flask in his cargo jeans. Man-on-the-street interviews and scrolling newspapers do a thorough and intriguing job of establishing the location (dubbed The Renway) and its eerie history, from a fatal fire in the projection booth to a slaughtered family discovered years later and the recent sighting of a naked female hanging from the main lobby ceiling. Once the broadcast begins, the team turns out the lights and explores the moviehouse, taking temperature readings of the antique seats and opening doors that are probably locked for good reason. In between clever commercial breaks (including one that features Troma founder Lloy Kaufman), the tension steadily builds as our ghost hunters find more evidence supporting an active–and hostile–haunting.
The Feed does an excellent job of recreating the spirit of supernaturally based reality shows. The cast has a believable documentary feel, although there’s something a little bland about their approach. We believe these people as characters, but that doesn’t necessarily make them interesting as individuals. By the film’s climax, I was sympathetic to their fate, even if I couldn’t quite differentiate who was who.
One limitation that seems to affect any found footage film is the inevitable rhythm of its ending. Throughout The Feed, we in the audience sense the buildup and anticipate a frantic finale. Our hearts are certainly beating faster as the tragic apparitions become more and more real, but we also can’t shake the feeling that we knew this was coming.
That being said, The Feed is, for most of its running time, the kind of indie gem that keeps your eyes glued to every frame. You want to find something amiss lurking in the corner, and because of Gibson’s effective atmosphere, you constantly feel as though you have (even when all that’s actually there is projected by your own imagination). Much like most haunted house films (both old and new), it works best in one sitting with the lights turned off, letting the slow spookiness settle in as our eager heroes lose their TV cool.
The Feed is scheduled to hit DVD this April with a special features that include a commentary track and behind the scenes footage. To learn more about the film and to follow its release news, visit the official website at www.TheFeedMovie.com.