Over the course of one torturous night, a suicidal woman and the violent home intruder that saved her life test the limits of human endurance and the boundaries of forgiveness.
Directors: Adrian Cruz
Writers: Jacqueline Wright
Starring: Jacqueline Wright, Brad Carter, Michael Shamus Wiles
Eat Me is an independent film following suicidal woman Tommy (Jacqueline Wright, North Country 2005), as she’s attacked and raped by a pair of home invaders named Bob (Brad Carter, Black Mass 2015, True Detective series 2014) and Frank (Lost Highway 1997, Breaking Bad series 2009).
The entire first half of the film have Wright’s suicidal character raped orally and vaginally repeatedly, and depict Carter chasing her around the house and making her eat dog food while threatening violence. When she eventually fights back, she’s brutally beaten, after which she apparently has a change of heart, and seeks to goad the invaders into killer her. I was remined of 1976’s Born for Hell a.k.a. Naked Massacre when watching, wherein the sexual violence is too realistic to be comfortable. Unlike that film, which was loosely based on the real-life Richard Speck murders, Eat Me feels less like intentional exploitation, and more like a failed try at high-brow fare.
Part of the issue is that Eat Me both looks and feels exactly like the stereotype of the pretentious independent movie that so many viewers hate watching. It’s drawn out, the soundtrack is limited to occasional bouts of offbeat ditties that run counter to the tense material, and the shock of fake male genitalia isn’t as effective as was likely hoped. It’s the kind of thing that caused the failure of projects like Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny, a sort of creator-vanity that forces the audience to endure a filmmaker’s hedonistic tendencies too long. The fact that Jacqueline Wright wrote the script exacerbates this feeling, and makes the audience feel used instead of impressed; it’s not “Wow, what a powerful performance I just witnessed,” but “Wow, I can’t believe I was held hostage and forced to watch this person act for 90 minutes.”
It’s the creator self-indulgence that enables the movie to portray rape and attempted rape repeatedly, and this fact alone will drive away most before ever reaching the film’s the meager message of victim-predator power reversal. There are subplots eluded to as well throughout the script, but they are so overshadowed by the violent actions of the film, they may as well be absent.
The biggest drag about Eat Me is that it’s very well made, and the cast is exceptional. Carter handles his idiot masochist deftly, and his constant concerned-face is at home with the material. Wiles takes the lumbering brute angle, and is as comfortable here as he’d be in a remake of O Brother, Where Art Thou? Wright’s acting within each scene is sublime, but viewing them all at once in film form reveals her character’s unexplained motivation-shifts. She moves from victim to controller instantaneously, and using a violent beating as the catalyst makes zero sense. Likewise, there are script problems that detract from the performances, such as Tommy’s horror at being urinated on exceeding her fear at potentially having a knife inserted into her anus. I don’t think I’m alone in finding the latter a far worse possibility.
Ultimately, I’m left unsure who this film is supposed to appeal to. S & M fans and seekers of rape fantasies will find the lack of sex appeal disappointing, while those seeking a high-brow art film will be disappointed by the unmotivated shifting of Tommy’s character. Acting fans may get some jollies out of the fine performances, but they’re likely to become bored partway in, when the characters start to feel one-note. With a lack of Tarantino’s marketable quirkiness, and without a Scorsese-ian focus on plot, we’re left with what critics of independent cinema so hate: a masturbatory demo-reel. If you are intrigued at all by these descriptions, by all means give Eat Me a watch. Just don’t expect there to be fertile soil beneath the top-layer—what you see is what you get.