Jimmy Weber clearly has a bone to pick, his directorial debut (also his debut writing credit) Eat is, on many counts, a fearless shameless venture, out to upset the unsuspecting viewer. For a horror fan, it’s a rare thing to find something that genuinely curls your toes, makes your eyes water, and has you shuddering in your boots, but Weber’s tale of self-consumption is the B-movie remedy to the beautification of cannibalism. NBCs sumptuous serial Hannibal has recently revealed the potential for exquisite acts of ultimate savagery, but sometimes it’s nice to step back to old-school shock tactics.
Novella McClure (Meggie Maddock) is a failing thirty-something actress with an out-dated name. She’s hopelessly in debt, about to get evicted, and spends way too much time partying with her wild friend Candice (Ali Francis). Pressures build until she develops a horrifying habit of eating her own flesh.
There’s actually only a few scenes of self-consumption but they are horrible. Thankfully there are no digital effects in sight since practical models are an integral part of the ick-factor for Eat. It’s the little things that Weber has an eye for; the toenail-pulling, skin-stripping, toe-chewing, miserable abandon of the whole disgraceful charade is applaudable in its visual repellence. The film’s pitfalls probably come somewhere between dull dialogue and a disappointingly half-assed pop vibe. The opening credits are camp, outlandish, and colourful, many parts of the film utilise a hyper-detailed colour –saturation (not dissimilar to Richard Bates Jr’s Excision) and it really works. The rest of the film seems to have forgotten how to use a camera, and to what purpose.
Maddock makes an adorable horror heroine, a genuinely touching character who, whilst sobbing between bites of her own gangrenous leg, has us equal parts repulsed and moved. The rest of the time though, Weber doesn’t give her enough to make her a really interesting character, and stays away from looking too deep at her bizarre affliction. Ali Francis is equally fantastic as Novella’s overbearing, gun-toting, gal-pal, easily landing the more “fun” character. A gripping rape-revenge sequence sees Francis turn what was initially just a “quirky friend” role into something far more involving, if a little over-drawn.
After a line like ‘I think that cast on your arm is hot, kinda wanna lick it’, you can be forgiven for wishing this could be a horror film in the vein of John Waters, but it doesn’t have enough filth to merit that kind of vibe. Instead, Weber gets caught between sorrowful soundtracking and an ultra-grim finale which should have been so-fucked-up-its-funny, but comes across as oddly pretentious, considering its general content and insane final moments.
Not a great film, Eat has some interesting stuff for horror fans and gore hounds, but other than that, its tale of male perversion and female self-destruction is an undeveloped after-thought with one hell of a macabre heart.
Dir: Jimmy Webber
Stars: Meggie Maddock, Ali Francis