You all know I love horror. What you may not know is that I’m obsessed with cooking shows. Especially cooking competition shows. I eat up (See what I did there?) MasterChef, Top Chef, even the overly acerbic Hell’s Kitchen. If only my two passions could unite! Wait, director Joe Maggio did just that in his 2010 film, Bitter Feast!
The premise is delectable (Okay, I’ll stop now.): a celebrity chef’s cooking show, The Feast, is cancelled after a particularly vicious review of his restaurant. His life is suddenly in shambles, and he knows who to blame: the reviewer, JT Franks. And we all know revenge is a dish best served (…sorry, I couldn't help myself.). Suffice it to say that Chef Peter Grey (pitch-perfectly played by James Gros) kidnaps said reviewer and tries to teach him a few things.
Bitter Feast is clever in that our Chef Grey doesn’t just chain up Franks in the basement of his (Grey’s) country home to start hacking off pieces. No, Grey challenges Franks to try cooking dishes for which he wrote scathing reviews. Put up or shut up, Grey seems to say. Who is this guy who can ruin careers with his words when he can’t even cook a simple steak to medium rare? As a writer who’s received my own share of bad reviews and rejections, I took great pleasure in seeing Franks put through these tests.
But this movie takes the time to develop both characters. We see the wreckage of JT Franks’ life. His nasty reviews are a by-product of a failed relationship and an unfinished (actually, not even begun) novel. And as his captor has a hell of time breaking him, we can start to wonder who’s the real hero here. Franks remains his bitter, sarcastic self through the torments, refusing even our own expectations that he’ll quiver and grovel for it all to stop. In a way, Bitter Feast is a pre-cursor to You’re Next, in that it offers the audience a chance to see a victim refusing to be treated as such.
The film is a perfect storm of levity and suspense, with just a pinch of gore. And more than a measure of poetic justice. And it includes a terrific supporting cast of Mario Batali, Megan Hilty, Amy Seimetz, and Larry Fessenden. Bitter Feast satisfies on many levels, giving just enough points of view to keep from telling just one side of events. I recommend this movie as the opening act to your next movie night. I hope you enjoy it. And as always, stay dark, my friends.