Reviewing Live Feed: Commence the Procedure!
By Desmond Reddick
11 December 2006 — For my first indy review I've decided upon the hometown exploitation film Live Feed, by the Nicholson brothers of Plotdigger Films. I'll preface this with the fact that I don't particularly enjoy exploitation films. The whole idea of gore for gore's sake bores me. Be warned, dear reader, this film is not for everybody.
The threadbare plot begins with five vacationing friends in an undisclosed Chinatown coming across a particularly disturbing canine butcher: one of the film's two intriguing characters. The frat-boy mentality of the film plays out from here with boisterous and ridiculous dialogue that is really just so stupid you could possibly hear it coming from teenagers desperately trying to impress someone. This is a good analogy for the film as a whole.
Their trip through Chinatown leads the group to a nightclub, and an eventual run-in with the Chinese Triad begins the machinations of their demise. The scenery-chewing Stephen Chang (of Rambo fame) ridiculously over-delivers his dialogue, and one can only wonder how the director scored Chang for the role in the first place — it's the most stupidly brilliant piece of casting I've witnessed in an independent horror film.
Of course the plot exists simply to force the characters into a circumstance where they will be mutilated and tortured. After almost being killed by the Triad for acting like douchebags, they are saved by a Japanese guy who tries to steer them to safety. But they have that "We don't care if there's a killer on the loose, we're going skinny-dipping anyway" attitude and heed not his warnings. The victims are ridiculously... no, unbelievably stupid: later in the film two of them marvel at a picture of a bound woman, discussing how sick it is... just before walking into said room to have sex. Twenty minutes later they figure out where they are. "Stupid" isn't even the right word here.
After the nightclub incident the group decides to blow off some steam at a porno theatre / motel... that just happens to be a place where very bad people pay other very bad people to murder people live on camera. Hence the title: Live Feed. From here on the film becomes one part Hostel and... um... another part Hostel where the characters are brutalized for others' amusement in unnecessarily elaborate ways. For example: one scene has a large masked man with a rubber apron (not to be mistaken for Leatherface) tie a woman to a chair, shove a PVC pipe down her throat, put a snake down the pipe and then perforate her stomach so the snake emerges unscathed. The brutal torture scenes in Hostel at least made sense; one could imagine a psychopath doing that stuff for kicks. In Live Feed it looks like too much work.
Now, the execution (pun intended) of the film is well-done for the most part. The cinematography is decent, the sound editing is pretty damn good and the gore is properly disgusting (the director having been an effects guru previous to directing). However, the tinted lighting (one room is blue while another is red) and visible bulbs are both shoddy and distracting.
Besides the performance of Stephen Chang, there are a few sequences that made the film worth watching, most notably the butcher knife fight between the Japanese savior fellow and the butcher which ends in a gunshot to the head using a melon as a silencer. Not the feel good hit of the summer.
The whole over-the-top aspect of the movie adds a sort of kung fu movie feel to Live Feed; I may just be compensating for the lack of acting skill on behalf of the cast, but that's the overall sense I gleaned from the film, especially from Chang. It's too bad it wasn't carried through with the rest of the cast. Live Feed really could have benefited from some self-mockery.
In total, Live Feed spreads itself too thin with its unnecessarily elaborate murders and depravity. The inclusion of forced cannibalism, sexual torture and overtly violent kills seems to be there simply for the director to show off his FX prowess, because they otherwise offer no redeeming value. Its one saving grace, the kung fu aesthetic, is abandoned before it is adopted. It is mindless exploitation with no message or weight offered to its ending.