As you can imagine, I’ve seen a lot of films in my day and always enjoy seeking out the most bizarre, abstract and downright weird films I can find. I can safely say however that I have never seen a film, especially a short, that starts with a guided meditation (!). But that’s exactly what happens at the beginning of Feed the Black, the viewer is instructed to close their eyes and empty their mind while a voice-over prattles on for almost five full minutes! That’s a significant chunk of time when the total running time is only about thirty-two minutes. If the V.O. contained important plot information or tied back into the film at a later point this could perhaps have been justified but as it is it feels incredibly extraneous.
After this, the film finally starts. The plot, such as it is, follows a nameless woman who visits a grave and shoots heroin for the next ten minutes of screen time while classical music plays. This is interrupted only by the occasional scene featuring quickly flashing images of religious iconography, a giant eyeball and other typical abstract film cliches. We are now halfway through. The remainder of the film continues along the same lines: she wakes up mysteriously in a forest, she walks through an old colonial town, a cemetery, there’s a human sacrifice, et cetera, et cetera. Throw in some mysterious shrouded figures, a few more seizure-inducing montages, trippy kaleidoscope editing effects, end on the titular line and….voila!
Truly, I haven’t seen something quite like this since my days in film school. In fact writer/director Klayton Dean falls into many of the same traps that film students do when trying too hard to create a significant, abstract work. First and foremost it’s pretentious as fuck. The Roman numerals dividing the sections, the classical music, the old English script for the end credits, it all tries desperately to impose a greater significance onto the footage that simply isn’t there. What’s missing is a cohesive story and a connection to the protagonist that is strong enough to make you want to take a bizarre journey with her.
A common misconception about abstract films is that they are supposed to be comprised of a nearly unintelligible collection of images that will take on greater significance simply by being confounding and bizarre. The reality, however, is that the director must lay a path for savvy viewers to follow so that the intended message of the film can be interpreted, otherwise it’s just weird for the sake of weird and has little value. This is a concept that surreal masters like Lynch and Jodorowsky understand as they layer their bizarre imagery with hidden meaning and complex social commentary. With symbolic imagery, there should be specific meaning tied to each image, most of which is also propelling the central story forward, not simply presenting vague ideas and general concepts like “the struggle between dark and light”.
Despite the shortcomings of this film I do feel that Klayton Dean has potential as a director. The film is well shot, the quality of the image is solid and the acting works. Unfortunately, without a solid foundation these qualities become irrelevant and Dean will need to get out of his own way before he can create something of real significance. However, with a solid, cohesive script in his hand he could be a force to be reckoned with.
In closing I also want to mention that it is a stretch to even classify this as a horror film. Honestly, the only thing shocking about this is that Dean sees fit to charge viewers to watch it. Even if it was much, much better than it is, it still wouldn’t be worth paying four bucks to own a thirty minute movie. This is the kind of film that should be free on YouTube, after it’s cut down to a third of it’s current length.