REVIEW: Feaster Sunday (2021)

Synopsis: Dr. Gideon Lear just wants to put on the greatest Passion play his little town has ever seen, but his Jesus has suddenly disappeared, the lead actress is distracted by a love triangle with the understudy and a high school sweetheart; there's a filthy hobo that won't go away, and now someone is painting ominous warnings on the door...

I have been a fan of Rock Bottom Video and Brian Papandrea's work ever since I was first turned onto the group's flick Fangboner several years back. At the time I reviewed that movie, I commented on how great I thought Papandrea was in his role - he has a real comic timing and knack, and is one of the best actors working in indie films today.

All of that still holds true today, but now Papandrea has taken his penchant for absurdist comedy and created his own world in Feaster Sunday, a smart thriller with a vein of very black comedy bursting throughout. Here, Papandrea takes control as producer, writer, director, and star.

Feaster has a few great tales being told at once, expertly intertwined. The film opens in a flashback: an old production of The Passion of the Christ is about to hit the stage, but immediately before the show begins, the lead actor is let go from his role as Jesus. An argument (and begging) ensue, the cast gives him a farewell cake, and an anger is unleashed...

Fast forward to present day, and Dr. Gideon Lear (played by underground horror director/actor Dustin Mills, doing sassy Jack Black better than Jack Black could do himself) runs the local community theater, where his passion project is, in fact, The Passion. Things get complicated though as the lead actor goes missing, and understudy Reen (Patrick Dear, Blood Orgy at Beaver Lake, Chubbies) takes on the role of Jesus Christ.

As obnoxiously method as they come, Reen feels the need to immerse himself in the production, and breaks things off with show co-star and girlfriend Tess (Allison Maier, Frankenstein Created Bikers, Space Babes from Outer Space) so he can better find himself in his role. Heartbroken, Tess leaves and runs into an old school friend, Eddie (Papandrea), and the two agree to hang out and catch up. Eddie works for the local access TV station and has a show he works on with hand-made puppets, all of which have their own special personalities.

Meanwhile, things are not going well at the theater, where someone has left a death notice, cautioning everyone to stop production on the play lest they want to be killed. Even as the mystery mounts and the local news is questioning whether putting on the play is a good idea, Gideon is determined to continue, as anyone who has ever done any theater knows that "the show must go on...", but at what cost? More cast members begin to disappear, and things turn from bad to worse.

What Papandrea was able to craft here is sincerely excellent on multiple levels. The blend of tense, unnerving thriller - which rides almost entirely on his shoulders - with a streak of dark comedy is perfect. I found myself laughing out loud at many lines and scenes, but know that this film is not a comedy. I also found the incredible prosthetic and FX work by James Bell (The Bleak, Tantrum) to be glisteningly disturbing (as his work always is), but it's not a straight horror film. That said, there is enough here to keep underground horror fans happy while not being so grotesque as to turn away casual movie fans.

A lot of the Rock Bottom regulars have roles or make cameos in the film as well, including Nathan Rumler (the director of Fangboner), Terence Cover (who is hilarious here as the conveniently-named Terence), plus Papandrea's wife Sadie Tate, who has an interesting role as Maggie, a woman we meet in an almost empty movie theater on a binge of classic cinema and mini-bottles of wine.

While this is not Papandrea's first time behind the camera as director, this is far and away his best work. A sort of twisted love-letter to amateur theater, anyone who has ever been in on stage will absolutely love this movie - but even if you haven't, Feaster Sunday is slick and sick, like a dirty mixture of John Waters and John Carpenter. I cannot suggest this film enough; if you're looking for some disturbing fun, this is the movie for you.


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