In the past decade, reality television has taken over. From “Survivor” to “Hell’s Kitchen” you can’t flip the channels without landing on one these programs. Who can blame the media for jumping on the trend of reality programming? People complain that their favorite real shows are cut and that there are more of the reality-based shows, but at the end of the day they are cheaper to make and more importantly, people flock to watch them. Among the myriad of different types of reality programming available there is one type of show that has proven to be both popular and resilient – paranormal investigation shows. The SyFy channel’s “Ghost Hunters” program has been going strong for over seven years with numerous spin-offs and copies now permeating the airwaves. Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, there is something intriguing about these shows: dark, deserted locations; night vision cameras; and interesting ‘tech-toys’ geared for recording phenomenon that cannot be explained. Usually the extent of the encounters is a blotch in a photo, an unclear voice in a recording or a strange knock heard just off camera. But what if one of these shows actually found something? What if they didn’t just find something in terms of empirical evidence? What if they found a malevolent force that isn’t just making itself known? What if it was also bent on killing them? Director and co-writer Steve Gibson asks those questions and more with his independent film THE FEED.
THE FEED follows a popular ghost hunting reality show called “Ghost Chasers” as they set up a live investigation at a reportedly haunted theater in Pennsylvania. The show starts out normally with a short documentary style introduction to the old movie house and its somewhat grisly history. Then the investigation begins. Like most reality paranormal shows, there is a lot of random wandering around and attempts to collect evidence such as EVPs or photos. Things start getting strange though when the celebrity psychic accompanying the team begins picking up ‘bad vibes’. At first her reactions are good fodder for the show’s ratings, but then she is attacked by an unseen force that leaves welts on her skin and shakes her so badly she must leave the building. Other things begin happening; doors slam, actual apparitions begin appearing on surveillance cameras and the team quickly begins to lose control of the situation, as the spirits in the theater even prevent them from going to commercial break. The old adage “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind as the team realizes that the spirits they were searching for are now hunting them, with blood on their minds.
THE FEED is a well made supernatural thriller. The movie airs exactly as if the viewer were watching a live broadcast of a TV show, including commercials. The commercials are an interesting addition to the movie. While they are not overtly done for comedy, they do parody everything from ambulance-chasing lawyers (great cameo by Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman) to pharmacies hawking prescription drugs. The film also captures the feel of many of the ‘real’ reality shows in the genre: shaky camera work, stretches where nothing happens punctuated with bursts of excitement and lots of night vision-green camera work.
THE FEED is reminiscent of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT in its style, but with more meat for the viewers to enjoy. The special effects for the apparitions are OK, but the film does a great job of limiting those and letting a lot of the actual horror occur off camera so it is up to the viewer’s imagination. One extremely creepy scene involves the investigators climbing into a crawlspace near the projection booth. That sequence and what they find are particularly well done and help the film generate some genuine scares. Made for a reported budget of just $15,000, THE FEED feels like it should have cost more. The location is excellent and the actors, if not always of Shakespearian quality, are perfect for their roles as reality TV hosts. Although the story is simple and some of the film’s intended surprises are painfully predictable, overall the movie is fun to watch. So if you’re tired of reality TV, check out some un-real-reality filmmaking with THE FEED, but remember once you’ve tuned in, you may not be able to tune out.