An annual high school famine event goes horribly wrong when a prank backfires, killing popular teacher Mr. Balszack and scarring those directly responsible for his untimely death. Five years later, a new student seeks to revive the famine-for-24-hour old tradition, inviting the same familiar faces involved in the prank, and hoping to rejuvenate vigor into the even again. Clicks form, alliances solidify, and outsiders become the insiders into just what’s really happening to the graduating class. With the night still young, a killer masquerading as the school’s mascot, The Nailer, exacts a terrible death upon those trying to not die of hunger or become dead from being categorized as unpopular. No one is safe from The Nailer who has chained the doors and has hands on every school authorized item weaponized for his eviscerating pleasure.
High School has never looked so dreadful from the late Ryan Nicholson’s written and directed 2011 gory slasher-comedy, “Famine,” co-written by “Girls Guns and Blood’s” Jeff O’Brien from a Taylor Nicholson story. Nicholson, who died this past October due to brain cancer, was for most a special effects guru who worked on well known films such as “Final Destination,” “Blade: Trinity,” and most recently, last year’s “The Predator,” but Nicholson was also a writer and director who specialized in gruesome, off-color horror, including a bowling horror-comedy “Gutterballs,” a bloody revenge thriller starring Debbie Rochon in “Hanger,” and a cannibalism film of the psychosexual style titled “Collar,” all of which have been released by notable cult home video distributors. With the Canadian bred “Famine,” the multitalented Nicholson had already found DVD distribution with his own company, Plotdigger Films, and a limited collector’s edition with Shock Entertainment back in 2013, but the indie extreme horror devotee, Unearthed Films, have reclaimed the New Image Entertainment title rights for a high definition Blu-ray release.
“Famine’s” quick to gut story doesn’t leave much room to build character, leaving much to exposition in the parameter of backstory, and only dances around the prospect of a principal role. Christine Wallace comes close to that role with Jenny, a ditzy school regular with a case of yelling tourettes syndrome and a hard on for another girl’s boyfriend, as a character on the outskirts of what really happened to Mr. Balszack that fateful famine day. Tall, broad shoulder, well-endowed, and with a pixie cut, Wallace is a striking actress acting similar to a baboon with a backpack and books. Also hot in the sultry pen, but in a more cool, calm, and mysterious way is Miss Vickers under the dark and tepid attributes of Michelle Sabiene. Sabiene and Wallace balance out with a warm blend of vapid cold and vivacious hot that split like a log under the stroke of an axe with Beth Cantor’s performance of Cathy, a mentally challenged student who often exchange sallied remarks with her quasi-friend Jenny and is seemingly the epicenter of Mr. Balszack’s demise. Cantor’s hunched over, Jerry Lewis crosse-eyed, and mimics the movements of a stiff corpse to obtain an overplayed performance that sticks out like a sore thumb and doesn’t pleasantly compliment the ruckus hijinks of a trope-ladened volley. The remaining “Famine” cast closes out with Nathan Durec, Sanya Silver, Terry Paugh, Thabi Maphoso, Ady Mejia, Gustavo MacSerna, Christopher Lomas, Karyn Halpin, Des Larson, and Glenn Hoffmann as the Nazi sympathizing Principal Nielsen.
Being familiar with “Gutterballs” and “Collar,” going into “Famine” with an open mind and the expectation that there will be blood spilled and gore galore was an easy sell for me to plop my keester down, pop the disc into the player, and press play with conviction. Yet, certain bars were reluctantly met with “Famine” and, by golly, it is my sincerest hope that I do not defile the recently deceased’s good name and reputation with my honest negativity, but after thoroughly enjoying the tasteful practical gore effects with the disemboweling spillage, the ramming of a nail spike to the head, and the sulfuric acid doused melting man, “Famine” carries a languid story with characterizations held sparely together with lose threads and comedy that’s flushed with odd behavior rather than genuine purpose. “Famine’s” an inflammatory reckoning of pervertible indecencies and blood with a harking slasher, a score well deserving of Nicholson’s legacy, but the point, if there is one, falls flat and hard on it’s face executing a fail in materializing an organized chaos that “Gutterballs” provided.
Unearthed Films have been a good friend to Ryan Nicholson with a home video release of “Collar” and a segment on “The Profane Exhibit.” Now, along with MVDVisual, “Famine” comes to feast onto Blu-ray presented in widescreen, shot in a high defintion 1.85:1 aspect ratio, with a just over an hour runtime of 77 minutes. Image wise, the Matt Leaf cinematography is bright, clean, and on the side of a warm sterile shade of yellow, but offers nothing truly new to the genre or find adulation from the comedy of it all. Still, not a single issue with uninspired imagery. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 renders a heavy score track that softens the dialogue track. Dialogue does, at times, becomes a strain to discern. Range and depth on the ambient track fairs better with plentiful slasher characteristics. The bonus features are quite anemic with a still gallery and Unearthed Films’ trailers. “Famine” isn’t one to starve on an unpinned story as Nicholson carves up a mediocre massacre with a filet mignon finish.
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