As seen at the Montreal HorrorFest
It’s difficult to imagine for whom, exactly, Famine was intended. The movie tries for a Troma-like blend of crass humor and goofy horror, but Famine is to the average Troma film what the average Troma film is to Carpenter’s Halloween. Even Troma University wouldn’t use Sloppy Secondary, the fictional high school in which Famine is set, as a feeder school. Famine is stupid to the point of being insulting.
The movie, directed by Canadian Ryan Nicholson (Gutterballs), lampoons the standard revenge tale, this time with someone killing off students who were present for an accident that disfigured a popular teacher. The accident took place during the school’s twenty-four hour famine, an event so thoroughly ignored by the majority of the school’s population that its repetition the following year defies logic.
Of course, a film like Famine isn’t about logic. No, a film like Famine is all about lowbrow humor and gory kills. Right? Well, as far as humor goes, this is one of the unfunniest “comedies” I have ever seen. Saying I didn’t laugh once should be a given, but I didn’t even smile once. The actors do what they can with the pathetic jokes foisted upon them (and the audience) by this sorry script, but even the best comics couldn’t have turned this stuff into genuine laughter.
Honestly, laughing at these performances might’ve actually made me feel worse. Sorta like laughing at a mentally-disabled person trying to put his pants on despite the fact he’s got them inside-out. There’s some humor to be found there somewhere, but you’re a dick for finding it. Likewise, though you can see where the laughs are supposed to come from in Famine, actually accepting these as funny should make you question your sense of humor and intellectual maturity.
As mentioned, the actors do what they can. Christine Wallace, wearing a bra that must have been specially designed by DARPA, does her best to strike a balance between charmingly stupid and bafflingly strident, but constant, seemingly random bouts of unhinged shouting ensure that she spends more time as the latter than the former.
Beth Cantor, who plays Cathy, though, is unendurable. She speaks in a voice even Jim Henson would find too inhuman, sounding as though she’d swallowed a live eel and the thing is trying to crawl its way back out with every syllable.
If the film has a single redeeming quality, it’s that the gore effects are well done. The kills offer the closest thing to a reason to smile. The gushing blood that accompanies every kill gives the impression that the circulatory systems of the characters in Famine are made up entirely of arteries. It’s suitably goofy and comes close to injecting a modicum of fun into an otherwise reprehensibly dreary and dull film.
Yet, Nicholson manages to tarnish even this single bright spot by including a gratuitously misogynistic scene in which a woman’s nipple is slowly excised. It is the only example of semi-realistic violence, and one would hope that it is a complete lapse in tone, abandoning all pretense at humor to shock the viewer, but one can’t help wonder if maybe even this example of bad taste is meant to be funny.
However, Famine is offensive not because of its content, but because it actually expects its viewers to find this stuff funny, to be entertained. It demonstrates such a low opinion of its own audience as to be a direct insult to fans of genuinely funny horror-comedies.
Unless you are a blindly and masochistically ardent supporter of Canadian indie horror, there is absolutely no reason to see Famine. If you want to watch low-brow horro-humor, check out the first or second Slumber Party Massacre, or even Girls Gone Dead or Cheerleader Camp (neither of which I gave an especially positive review, but I’d still recommend over suffering through the tedium of Famine), or simply hop on over to Troma’s youtube channel where they’ve made nearly 150 movies available for free.
Watch the Famine trailer (or don’t . . . whatever)