An isolated Canadian town (populated by the weirdest group of people this side of Saturn) has seen its share of problems. First the nut factory closed, then the CATV antenna stopped broadcasting, and now something is gruesomely devouring the townsfolk! Can visiting atomic scientist (and expert on "cool fusion") Dr. Karel Lamonte solve the mystery before everyone disappears? Written by
I'd given up hope, after a decade and a half, of ever seeing another John Paizs film and I've contented myself with frequent repeat viewings of CRIMEWAVE, far and away the funniest Canadian movie ever made. FOOD CHAIN's local release on Friday came, to put it mildly, as a happy surprise. Its credits aren't as auteurish so I suspect his shrewd collaborators got behind what must've been a hard sell of this unique talent. To the best of my knowledge, or at least taste, there's no other director, including his brilliant fellow Manitoban Guy Maddin, who can take such deadpan, shamelessly bizarre humour and make it so side-splitting.
To dispute its absolute originality, TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN shares a craziness of concept with 1984's BIG MEAT EATER, another micro-budget Canuck item (something in our water?) Rather than the conventional smug mockery of 50s drive-in sci-fi (oh look at Woody and the giant tit, how droll and cunning) these films strive to be, in look and feel, a modern day continuation of a time-locked genre that had logic and principles of its very own, though so free form that comic expression can flourish on a wide open range. While MEAT EATER, a delightful though haphazardly directed mess, was marginally a musical remake of PLAN 9, FOOD CHAIN takes its initial premise from from the interesting ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER, complete with the strangely lit alien sexpot in the woods and main characters that are somewhat similar to the ones here. It's clear that the actors are in improvisation heaven but Paizs, in the tradition of Altman and Morrissey at their best, never lets them stray from his story telling vision. And what a vision: this is like MARAT/SADE! It's a 50s monster melodrama concieved, produced and acted out by mental patients!
Not a single character in this movie even attempts to approximate socially acceptable behavior, nor does anyone, even on a good guy/villain level, ever question one another's unusualness. Sexual obsessions spring up all over the place but are pointedly ignored in terms of detail, as if Paizs is taking on the role of gossippy spinster aunt who knows where to cut things off for decency's sake. It doesn't stop there. He interrupts things, though briefly enough to maintain the flow, to point out things of visual interest, like a hideously familiar faux-wicker basket full of saltines, that you just know you once saw in your own childhood home. He actually has the gall to reuse enjoyed props within the same sequence: a bright pink hugely finned bulgemobile ('59 Pontiac?) appears in the background during both takes on an opposite-angled dialogue. Even the FX showcase at the grand climax, suitably tacky looking by today's standards, he undermines with swift dispatch that makes it clear that the characters are far more interested in each other's activities of the moment than any impending doom.
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