EVIL Wants You to Be Mindless! “Night Feeder” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / Blu-ray)

“Night Feeder” Is a Brainless Trip Through the New Wave Eighties! 

A woman is found dead on the city streets.  The cause of death is the same as two others before with similar wounds; their brains are sucked out completely through a slit in the eye socket.  As the neighborhood community cowers in fear, Jean Michaelson, a female magazine journalist and who also just moved to the residential city district, takes it upon herself to uncover the truth before her new home becomes an unlivable nightmare.  At the center of suspicion is Bryan Soulfield, a musician a part of the band Disease, previously involved in the death investigation of three women groupies who overdosed on a drug called DZS that shares the same phonetic name Soulfield’s band.  Inspector Alonzo Bernardo spearheads the investigation with an ever-watchful eye on his best suspect, Bryan Soulfield, and an even keener interest in Jean Michaelson as they both feel the grip of public pressure and come intimately closer to each other and to the unsuspecting and shocking truth as the bodies become more frequent around Jean’s apartment.

Obscure, one-and-done horror can often be worth the viewing calories and 1988’s “Night Feeder” is definitely the epitome of those hidden gem genre films from America’s exploration into the video format and stemming into another branch of liberal arts.  “Night Feeder” was the result of an assemblage of a painter and a pair of novelists who, out of the blue, decided they wanted to make a movie.  A gouache and oil painter of portraits, often nude, Jim Whiteaker tries his talented brush stroking hand at directing a full length shot-on-video feature with mystery writers Linnea Due and the late Shelley Singer crafting a murder whodunit in a grisly brain slurping fashion that conveys heavily on the theme of misjudging a book by its disfigured and notorious cover and end with a killer you never see coming – because it’s sucking out your brain through your eye socket!  “Night Feeder” is also emblematic amongst other spoiler-inducing concepts that we’ll dive into later in the review.  Shot in the dark corners of the San Francisco Bay area at the liberal arts focused Dutch Boy Studios, “Night Feeder” is glam horror ripe for attention, produced by James and Jo Ann Gillerman under the production banner of Gillerman-Whiteaker-Gillerman.

For an investigative horror-thriller in the crevices of a phasing new wave and post-punk era, the low-budget production has a remarkably versed cast of unknown, likely hyper regional, actors.  Kate Alexander (“Kamillions”) cut her teeth as principal character, journalist Jean Michaelson, and instills a healthy dose of raw emotion into an unlikely B-flick, tamping her performance firmly into the role caught in a love triangle between punk musician and prime brain-sucking suspect number one, Brian Soulfield  (Caleb Dreneaux) and by-the-book police inspector, Alonzo Bernardo (Jonathan Zeichner) confounded by killer’s strange methods.  Not to forget to mention the ominous presence that possible lurks around every corner that drives shivers up Michaelson’s tattered spine, making her vulnerable and blind to what’s really in front of her, romantically and threateningly.  We’re briefly introduced to support characters, aka soon to be victims, and then eventually snowball into the quickly dispatched before having a chance to steal or swallow the protagonist predicament for their own, but these support characters are engaging enough to be either drug pushing scoundrels, intolerant jerks, or spaced-out mothers so you can tell from the beginning their level of likeableness before their fatal end, but at least they’re not benign, vanilla cogs in the machine. The cast fills out with Lissa Zippardino, Jac Trask, Ginger Seeberg, Roger J. Blair, Robert Duncanson, Robert Hogan, and the Bay-born cultural critic Cintra Wilson and a special soundtrack performance by the new wave rock band, The Nuns as the fictitious band, Disease. On top of that, Dutch Boy artists fill the gaps in minor roles like waiters, party guests, and concerns citizens as a public gathering.

Despite playing out like a police procedural investigation that narrows down suspects until the killer is unearthed and either arrested or gunned down in a harrowing, desperate moment, we all know ahead of time “Night Feeder” is cladded with more than just plainclothes of cops and robbers.  The big tell is the brain being liquified and sucked out from the eye cavity like a Slurpee minus the brain freeze because, well, there’s no brain!  “Night Feeder” sounds like a mindless Z-grade film and while the narrative involves mindlessness in a way, the 80’s creature feature is anything but a ponderous film with an immense underground punk presence, eccentric personalities, and a standoffish and reticent romance brewing in the background sandwiching the strange deaths of unconnected murders piling up around the heroine’s noir-esque, urban jungle neighborhood and perplexing the lone law authority on the case.  Whiteaker and his writing team thoroughly include the residents and residents’ concerns which makes “Night Feeder” bigger than it really is as it is often with lower-budget creature features will neglect to include the angry, scared mobs into the conversation.  The narrative intends to spark public fear and uses it to drive Jean into a rabbit hole of truth that has now become more personal than professional since her space has been affected by an invading killer.  Her best friend ending up dead in the tub of her apartment during a neighborhood party and with her ex-husband found slumped out of the driver’s seat of his car shepherds violently out her old life into a new, scary territory of relationships.  A director having an artistic background and working with creative storytelling minds lends to a more than average physical special effects and becomes a Jonathan Horton (“Enemy Mine”) showcase of skill that removes “Night Feeder” from the average pool of shoddy effects films and into a higher class of eye-catching, detailed creepiness that is unique and can’t be unseen with an autopsy that’s all too realistically educational and with its climatically exposed humanoid creature and it’s protruding cerebral sucking device.

Strong effects, strong story, and a strong female character serve the “Night Feeder” as a secret menu item in the SRS Cinema catalogue!  The Cursed to Crave Forbidden Flesh tag lined film is presented on a single disc, AVC encoded, 1080p high definition Blu-ray with a letterboxed full frame aspect ratio of 1:33:1.  One of the better looking 80’s film on a budget, “Night Feeder” is tremendously insignificant SOV interference, which makes me believe Whiteaker and director of photography, Paul Kalbach, had their hands on non-commercial grade video camcorder and after doing some research, the camera used was a BetaCam SP that increased the horizontal likes to over 340, likely from to Whiteaker and Gillermans’ artistic music videos and seemingly at the advantage of Kalbach’s Artichoke Productions in the Bay area that gained him a reputation as a visual artist and “Night Feeder” very much plays into being a vision of New Wave horror with a glowing aura, vibrant warm, almost neon-like lighting hues, and, of course, the two semi-music videos of The Nuns making their way in front of the camera.  Virtually no technical issues with the image albeit a flat coloring, a blip here and there with a brief blip screech, and softer details with the glow haze outline that provides the movie a prolonged dreamy coating or an inescapable nightmarish ethereal within the context of the scene.  The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo carries a lo-fi but sustainable level that celebrates the dialogue and divvies the other tracks to accommodate the little depth it can muster with the BetaCam recording. English subtitles are not available on this release.  Special bonus features include a commentary by director Jim Whiteaker who provides the genesis of the film and gives background on the characters and actors, a movie still slide show, and SRS trailers that include “Day of the Reaper,” “Garden Tool Massacre,” “The Son of the Devil,” “Hellbox,” “Truth or Dare?” Physical features are housed in a traditional Blu-ray snapper case with new composition artwork with the original embossed title and a still one of the more gory-ladened victims, but the reversed side carries the one of the original key arts that embodies the true essence of “Night Feeder” in illustration of a monstrous hand in the foreground of skyscrapers, reaching up and over a sensuously positioned lifeless woman who resembles the lead actress. The disc art is printed with the same illustrated image. The region free Blu-ray has a runtime of 95 minutes and is region free but is listed as a 2020 film in the same design grouping where usually the date listed is in the production release date, which in this case would be 1988. Tidied up and polished, SRS Cinema Blu-ray of “Night Feeder” is a quarried gem by a group of diverse artists bringing their leathery inlaid and new wave touch of artistic licenses to develop a subgenre standout in the 80’s creature feature category.

“Night Feeder” Is a Brainless Trip Through the New Wave Eighties! 

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