'Bitter Feast' Movie Review

Bitter Feast
by Shannon Hilson, MoreHorror.com

What do you get when you take the classic set-up for a torture-suspense flick and add generous helpings of cooking-show-gone-horribly-awry? Why, you get director Joe Maggio’s Bitter Feast, of course.

Bitter Feast is the story of embittered freelance restaurant critic J.T. Franks (Joshua Leonard). Like so many of us, Franks is plagued by a wealth of personal problems that have contributed to his jaded attitude over the years and this can’t help but come out in his work. More and more, it seems as if he’s known for giving positively scathing reviews to restaurant after restaurant. However, the day eventually comes when he pisses off the wrong guy by way of his poisoned pen… er… keyboard.

Peter Gray (James Le Gros) is a celebrity chef whose cooking show and career could stand to be doing a lot better. He wants to talk about high-brow topics like green eating and sustainable resources while his viewers and his boss could honestly care less and think he ought to just lighten up and focus on entertainment. When Franks makes Gray the target of his latest mean-spirited review, we also find out that Gray is a raving psychotic who’s reached the end of his rope and is bent on teaching Franks a lesson once and for all.

What’s next? An abduction followed by a series of deceptively mundane cooking tasks which Franks must complete to the same standards of perfection he expects from the chefs whose food he reviews. If he passes the tests, he lives to write another day.

All in all, I felt Bitter Feast was a pretty decent film, especially for not being especially high budget, and I’ve willingly watched it more than once at this point. However, whether or not you feel the same will probably depend on why the idea of it appealed to you in the first place. If you’re a food junkie and cooking show lover who also happens to enjoy horror movies, this will be an interesting watch for you. You’ll see nods toward personalities you’re very familiar with. For instance, Gray’s co-host on his cooking show (Megan Hilty) is strongly reminiscent of Rachael Ray… right down to the giggle that kind of makes you want to punch her square in the face. You will be treated to a priceless cameo by master chef, Mario Batali as Peter Gray’s boss as well. Plus, the descriptions of recipes and camera close-ups of absolutely delectable things being cooked and prepared will make your mouth water as effectively as any cooking show ever has. (Seriously, I need to make that ravioli, mulberry, and rabbit dish Gray cooks toward the end one of these days.)

However, if you could care less about food and are simply hoping to be legitimately scared when you sit down to watch this, I am not quite sure you will find this nearly as entertaining. The way the plot unfolds is interesting, but a bit predictable. Nothing jumps out at you or gives you that “I seriously almost pissed myself” feeling… and if you’re hoping to see honestly gruesome scenes of torture and gore in Bitter Feast, the actual punishment scenes will most likely leave you feeling cold.

Yes, it’s true that this never really makes you cringe or gives you that delicious feeling of being messed with psychologically that a lot of similar films do. Plus, there are definite plausibility issues with the plotline. For instance, I find it hard to swallow the idea that even a popular food blogger would make or break any chef’s career with his little old opinion while the writers of Bitter Feast act like Franks writes for three of the biggest food magazines in the country or something.

Even so, I did enjoy the film, considered it to be entertaining, and would say it’s worth a watch. I loved the way the plot for this movie revolved around food, yet the food itself was not treated like an afterthought. I also kind of enjoyed seeing Joshua Leonard in another horror film, as I’d always been a fan of The Blair Witch Project and wondered what happened to the actors who were in that. This is different without being too pretentious about it and I appreciated that. If you think it might be your cup of tea as well, pour yourself a glass of Shiraz, make yourself a plate of artisan pasta, and give it a try for yourself some night!

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