Monster pictures does the double on us this month with releases of two high scorers, but in terms of content they couldn’t be any different. ‘Charlie’s Farm’ your classic slasher, and ‘EAT’ whose arthouse meets slaughterhouse content pushes the envelope even further contrasting gross out shock value scenes, with an impacting story of deteriorating mental state.
If you want a genre comparison I would rate this as highly as ‘Necromantik’ in terms of its powerful and outright grim imagery.
The concept of ‘EAT’ is something quite difficult to articulate. On the surface the synopsis would be brief in that the plot revolves rather simply around a struggling actress whose exposure to the stress and strain of her shallow life and consistent rejection pushes her to levels of self-harm bordering on the psychotic. Not content with simple wrist cuts, she feels that consumption of her own body is the only thing which eases the pain.
It sounds like the dodgiest gore movie ever doesn’t it? But rest assured when you see the title as the layered metaphor it is, the movie becomes something more of a heavyweight. The movie approaches the topic from an arthouse perspective, not that it’s pretentious at all, just that for the movie to work as it does there needed to be a certain attention to detail.
I loved the cinematography for starts. All locations are sleek, clinical, but with no depth or feel. On the surface everything seems pristine, pure and perfect, but when you consider the constant exposure to it all, the homes, rented office spaces, the clubs, you realise the ‘love’ is missing. The sets, lighting, make-up, all reflects this picture perfect but ultimately soul-less world our lead character Novella McClure lives in. Her state of mind could be questioned from the get go, and in the opening scenes we see her effort to ‘doll’ up with make-up, part party-girl cliché but more than that it’s an introduction into her world where the person counts for very little, and only the services they can provide or the image they can sell. It’s a realm of back stabbing, and exploitation. Despite the initial introduction we see that Novella has more about her than that, and above all else, she’s not lost faith that her big break could be just around the corner without stooping to the level of degradation constantly impressed upon her.
With movies such as this character is everything, and despite the eventual cascade into some of the most disgusting gore shots I’ve ever witnessed, the build-up is subtle. The supporting roles play an absolute blinder in creating a world whose walls genuinely feel as if they close in on Novella! My favourite character without a doubt has got to be the best friend ‘Candice’. Initially she seems like the perfect ‘gal pal’ but ultimately her behaviour turns obsessive and ultimately something oppressive, the parallel decline of Candice’s behaviour really forces the story into the inevitable bottle-neck which only enhances its overall impact. Novella must contend constantly with industry types and other bitchy actors. The run-ins with these only makes Novella’s situation seem more pitiful than enviable. About two thirds through the movie Novella delivers a monologue about her feelings for an interview which pretty much ties the viewer to her plight, Novella’s character really came to life here, a true butterfly in a jar – again, only increasing the impact of the final sequences. It’s worth noting that this was only effective because of some truly outstanding acting by Meggie Maddock in the role of Novella. This story grips, and grips tight, and never let’s go, hell, even when Novella meets someone comparatively normal the taint of her life ensures happiness is only short lived!
All of the above creates a true atmosphere, and in the opening paragraph I likened it to Jörg Buttgereit’s ‘Necromantik’, which for me conjured up similar feelings as ‘EAT’. For sure, you couldn’t relate to the characters, but it didn’t stop you feeling for them, and for them to pass on their emotions to you in their times of emotional upheaval. Just as with ‘Necromantik’,’Eat’ also delivers in the visual department. The scenes of violence in this movie are incredibly well done. The effects are good, but the delivery of the scenes convey a loss of control which made sure these scenes pack a punch. They are of course gruesome, some really stomach churning parts, but for me the real selling point of the film was the impact they made. This is not some soulless gore-fest, by the time you’ve got to know Novella as well as you do, watching her demise is almost as difficult as watching her living in misery.
As far as I can tell ‘EAT’ is writer/director Jimmy Weber’s first feature length movie, and I cannot praise it enough. This movie is certainly not for everyone, it’s uncompromising, and at times difficult to watch, but in terms of its layered story, and almost flawless execution I say make sure that you do.