PLOT: One dark All Hallow’s Eve, a group of cannibals take over a restaurant after closing. Soon, the frightened employees discover that they are on the menu for a bloody meal.
REVIEW: James Roday always brought his sense of fun, and even occasionally his love of horror, to the popular USA series Psych. One of my favorite episodes was a very clever nod to slasher films. So it is no surprise that he has expanded his love for the genre with his feature film directorial debut. GRAVY is heavy on humor, as well as gore effects from Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger. And while Roday manages to illicit a few thrills, when it all comes down to this cannibalistic tale, it is the humor that keeps it fresh. This is a bloody and slightly morbid story that serves up a very black side of humor, with a little suspense thrown in for good measure.
On All Hallow’s Eve, three deviants take the staff at a Mexican cantina hostage. Unfortunately for the poor souls, it isn’t money they are after, it is meat. Looking for a special Halloween treat, Stef (Jimmi Simpson), his girlfriend Mimi (Lily Cole) and Anson (Michael Weston) find a nice quiet restaurant with no windows or means of escape, and plan for one hell of a meal. Seriously, how much can these people eat? The staff includes the restaurant owner Chuy (Paul Rodriguez), his cook Yannick (Lothaire Bluteau), security guard Winketta (Gabourey Sidibe), as well as Kerry (Sutton Foster), Cricket (Molly Ephraim), and one unfortunate customer Bert (Ethan Sandler). All of whom are on the verge of becoming part of a massive and bloody feast.
In the incredibly charming opening scene, we first meet Anson (Weston) as he goes into a local market to grab a quick non-human bite. The girl working the night shift is none other than Sarah Silverman who plays the adorable bunny costume wearing Bethany. It is a very unusual way to open a horror comedy but it works. Both Weston and Silverman are perfect together, you almost wish that this had been a completely different type of movie about the awkward romance between Anson and Bethany. And while this humor and charm still holds up throughout, obviously the film takes a much more gruesome turn. The laughs are there, but so are the severed limbs and bodies cut in half.
Roday - who co-wrote the script with Todd Harthan - knows how to inject humor into horrific situations. And while most of the time, he is able to balance between the two, this gets a little bleak. The villains are really disturbingly sick and twisted, partially because they are played so well. Simpson, Weston and Cole are so good that you really, really want their characters dead. So it gets a tad frustrating when the victims make some of the worst possible choices. None of the people that populate this feature are especially bright. Perhaps that is a good thing if you are looking to yell at the screen, telling some guy to pick up the f*cking axe. And while I don’t mind a little on-screen stupidity, there is just too much of it.
Another slight issue I had is the simple fact that the already short film tends to drag slightly. There is not much to this story - which is typical for horror - yet the already short running time seems to drag slightly in the second act. Yet somehow, the many references to odd pop culture choices, and the strong cast tend to pull you back in. As dimwitted as the characters are, you can still enjoy the ride thanks to their work as well as the dialogue. This is essentially a dark comedy with a very clear affection for it’s comedy and horror influences.
GRAVY is a fun flick. It manages to pull off some really entertaining dialogue and the actors all seem to be truly engaged in the gruesome goings-on. It did get a little infuriating that the characters are so damn dumb, and frankly, as short as the film is the entire plot at times felt a too little thin. However, writer/director Roday has a good grasp on horrific comedy, and he injects a strong sense of visual style to the silliness. It also helps that the actors are all good, it was especially entertaining to see the bond between Simpson and Weston. This is a ridiculously goofy and gory good time. While it may not be a modern day EATING RAOUL, it sure is fun to watch it try.