Review: 'Excess Flesh' [Fantasia Festival 2015]

Traditional cinematic fare, much of the time, feels a little sterile. Sure, there are the occasional outliers, the films that eschew whichever convention and are the stronger for it, but there’s also a reason why so many risk-averse films end up at the multiplex and pull in bushels of money: when it is done well, the formula works.

So, you might say that good movies do boring things well and great movies do interesting things well. It stands to reason, then, that the reverse is also true. Bad movies do boring things poorly, and horrible movies do interesting things poorly. Guess which category Excess Flesh, a horror film about eating disorders, falls into.

First, credit where it is due. There are moments in this film that are just revolting, and it’s not like the filmmakers broke the bank to pull them off. Success? And some credit, too, to the creative team for trying to do something new. No risk, no reward. No reward in this case either, mind you, but the adage stands.

The briefest of synopses before moving on: Jill (Bethany Orr) is jealous of her roommate Jennifer (Mary Loveless), because Jennifer can seemingly eat and drink whatever she wants and yet stay trim and bag herself a man at will. When Jennifer’s attentions turn to Rob (Wes McGee), Jill starts to lose it, and sets out to have her revenge on her friend.

Let’s be brief: this film is easy to hate. The acting is poor, the dialogue is poor, the plot is dull, and it’s just gross. To be fair, that last bit is largely the idea. The point of having multiple people binge-eating disgusting food and then acting like horrible monster is to be gross. But there are limits. There’s a point at which the grossness is just off-putting, and in this film, we arrive there almost immediately.

It’s not just the food. The characters are just as repugnant as the mountains of food they shove down their faces, and there is no refuge. We are trapped in this forsaken hole with these awful people and nothing to sustain us but images of gummy worms and half-eaten bags of chips. It’s unpleasant, and the kind of thing to incite a sudden interest in the ticking of a nearby clock.

Future filmmakers, take heed: Make whatever point you want, but if you do it in a way that people don’t want to watch, you’re not exactly making the most of your chosen medium.

Tonally, there is zero consistency to this film. Emotionally, characters are all over the place. Their motivations are never quite clear, and it’s a reliable bet that whatever is going on, it doesn’t really make sense. This is one of those “because the script said so” movies, and there’s very little effort put in to make us believe.

There’s a “twist,” but it’s as lazy as the rest of the film, and if you’re not able to spot it coming within the first few minutes, it’s probably because you fell asleep. It’s cheap, and that’s aggravating, because twists for their own sake are worthless. You need to be surprised, or at the very least care that the characters are surprised. But how can we care when it doesn’t feel like anyone making the film did?

This is a young team of creative people, and it’s very possible that they have something good in them. But this is not that thing. This feels lazy and uninspired, and the chances it dares to take are ruined by the fact that the execution is so poor. Whatever your feelings on indie horror, this is one to avoid.