MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Michael Weston as ANSON
Jimmi Simpson as STEF
Sutton Foster as KERRY
Lily Cole as MIMI
Molly Ephraim as CRICKET
Paul Rodriguez as CHUY
Gabriel Luna as HECTOR
Lothaire Bluteau as YANNICK
Gabourey Sibide as WINKETTA
Sarah Silverman as BETHANY
Studio: Scream Factory
Directed by: James Roday
BY KEVIN CARR
I’ll be the first to admit that while I am a huge horror movie fan, there are some subgenres that I’ve never been a huge fan of. I’ve never gone wild over zombies, even though they’re all the rage right now. Similarly, I’ve never loved the punishment movies like “The Devil’s Rejects” unless there’s a certain degree of deconstruction and social commentary to be had (like the original “Hostel” or “A Serbian Film”).
So while I can appreciate what James Roday and company is doing with “Gravy,” as a set-up, it’s not really my cup of tea. Still, there’s a certain level of charm and do-it-yourself spirit that comes with “Gravy” that makes it worth checking out this holiday season.
The story follows a staff of a Mexican restaurant on Halloween who are taken hostage by a trio of psychopaths. Dressed in Halloween costumes to heighten the thrills, the psychopaths tie up the victims and proceed with their plan to slowly cook and eat them over the course of the night. Of course, when the victims make a plan to fight back, the plan goes a little off.
First and foremost, “Gravy” is a comedy with the darkest of intentions. It does not hold back in terms of gore and unrest, featuring some brutal kills and twisted characters. Jimmi Simpson and Michael Weston (both of whom are BFFs with writer/director James Roday in real life) ham it up with tongue-in-cheek delivery and a deliberate scenery-chewing performance. They are actually the best part of the film, being so perfectly in synch with their director that they even subscribe to his cadence of line delivery and humor style.
For what amounts to a bottle episode of a television show (featuring very limited locations and a relatively small cast of characters), “Gravy” moves around enough to not get boring. And the cast is diverse and unique enough to give you something you don’t always get in a low-budget horror movie. That’s what you get when you put Oscar-winner Gabourey Sibide, old-school comedian Paul Rodriguez and Broadway darling Sutton Foster together in a group facing grisly death together.
Still, “Gravy” has its faults, which for me stem from my lukewarm take on this particular subgenre. (So I’ll be the first to acknowledge that these criticism fall in the realm of taste rather than absolutism.) In an interview with Roday, he told me this film was partly inspired by the nihilistic thriller “Funny Games,” and that makes a lot of sense. I did not particularly like “Funny Games,” but I can see what Roday is trying to accomplish here.
With the “Funny Games” mindset, it makes sense why the situation is so hopeless for the victims in this film. Roday did not set out to make a homage slasher film from the 1980s. Instead, he is bucking that system, as Michael Haneke did with “Funny Games,” giving the audience hope and snatching it away. I may not have liked this angle of the film, but I respect the decision.
For those who like the punishment subgenre and want something that falls much more in the realm of dark comedy, “Gravy” will be a hoot.
The Blu-ray of the film includes a commentary track with James Roday, Jimmi Simpson and Sutton Foster. There’s also the trailer and a “What Is Gravy?” featurette. Hidden in the menu is an Easter egg music video of the Christmas theme for a would-be sequel.