Gravy [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (18th October 2015).
The Film

Successfully pulling off a horror/comedy is no easy feat. With horror, it is at least clear what elements are needed for a film to be terrifying (whether or not the filmmaker achieves that terror is another matter), but adding humor into the mix poses a real challenge. It is definitely possible to oversaturate a script with attempts at comedy; however, the reverse is not necessarily true – a little humor often goes a long way. Peppering in well-pointed barbs can provide some needed levity after prolonged periods of intensity. Throwing a bunch of shit at the wall and hoping some of it sticks, well, that’s an approach which rarely works. And that’s why it was so damn difficult to make it through “Gravy” (2015). The film’s biggest obstacle is writer/director James Roday’s inability to balance horror and humor, relying far too heavily on the latter and in the process delivering a picture that left me feeling fatigued from jocularity. “Gravy” is a bit like a contemporary companion to “Eating Raoul” (1982), only without the acerbic wit, comedic timing, and capable direction of Paul Bartel.

It’s Halloween night, and the employees of a Mexican cantina are getting ready to close up for the night and join in the local festivities. Their plans are halted when a trio of costumed evildoers weld the doors shut and tie up everyone in the building. This isn’t about money; it’s about a good meal – specifically, one made from the bodies of those tied to the restaurant’s chairs. According to Stef (Jimmi Simpson), this is a yearly tradition he carries out with his girl, Mimi (Lilly Cole), and his best bud, Marty (James Roday). The triumvirate engages in sick games with their hostages, forcing them to decide who ends up in tonight’s courses.

When almost all of the lines are puns, and not one scene is without attempts at comedy, how much horror can be in a horror/comedy? The answer: very little. Roday’s script is an endless cavalcade of comedy, barely taking a moment to remember horror films needs a little something called tension to be remotely successful. Instead, he seems to have graduated from the Eli Roth School of Horror, wherein you hope gruesome, bloody FX work can make up for the near-total lack of a solid script and good characters. What good is a captor/captive scenario if every character is so cliché and annoying I want to see them all die? The manager, played by Paul Rodriguez, is a stereotypical Mexican. Gabourey Sidibe, still the size of a small moon and the only cast member who could legitimately eat everyone in the building (with room for dessert), is the loud-mouthed, outspoken Angry Black Woman security guard. And the French chef plays like a caricature of a French chef. None of these characters feel real in the least, especially the Deranged White People who are far too gleeful and full of bon mots to be even mildly intimidating.

Do you like gore? Because if you like gore you might have a blast here. I remember the days when a swollen FX budget and a few buckets of crimson were enough to secure my interest. If you’re a 14-year-old whose taste hasn’t yet developed, perhaps the grisly deeds seen in “Gravy” will be enough to wow you and your buddies. But I’m older and it just does nothing for me. Torture porn had its moment in the sun and that short window of time is all it really deserved. Extreme gore is boring and too easy of a crutch for filmmakers who hope it will obfuscate a lack of good writing.

Seeing positive reviews pop up for “Gravy” had me excited to check out what I was hoping would be a fun, nasty little film. Instead, right from the get-go I felt besieged by one-liners and zany quips that simply never let up. Worse still, very little of the comedy brought forth even a half-cocked grin from my lips. It’s the kind of humor that might play better to a large audience, where people laugh at things that are meant to be funny and you, too, get caught up in the wave of howls and let out a few chuckles. For me, it was stifling. I would rather have Gabourey Sidibe sit on my head and fart the National Anthem than have a second serving of “Gravy”.

Video

“Gravy” hits Blu-ray with a mostly-pleasing 2.35:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image. The production uses a vivid color palette, with lots of striking hues popping off the screen – this is especially true of reds, which are used to sickly effect. Contrast is strong, black levels look perfectly dark and there is no grain to be seen in this slick, digital image. Some of the darker scenes, of which there are quite a few, tend to envelop the image in shadows and lose detail. Minor crush is evident a few times, though not as noticeably bad as on some other Scream Factory titles.

Audio

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track (48kHz/24-bit) features great fidelity, with the sound design doing well to fill out the available channels. Some of the sourced music tracks are peculiar in their use, but they do give the soundtrack a jolt of energy. There are no real moments of bombastic activity, rather the track makes use of every speaker by discreetly placing effects around the room to aid in feeling like viewers are inside the restaurant. An English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track is also included. Subtitles are available in English.

Extras

The bonus features here boil down to an audio commentary, a couple of EPK featurettes and some promo material.

The audio commentary features co-writer/director James Roday, actors Sutton Foster and Jimmi Simpson, delivering all the expected comments commentaries feature.

“What is “Gravy”?” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 5 minutes and 56 seconds, this is basically an EPK for the film.

“EPK” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 6 minutes and 23 seconds, which is more of the same from the previous featurette.

A theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 2 minutes and 16 seconds.

There is also an easter egg (1080p), hidden as a Christmas tree on the bonus features menu, that runs for 2 minutes and 53 seconds. It’s a short film.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case. A slip-cover is available on initial pressings.

Overall

Even if the horror here worked – and it doesn’t – the comedy completely ruined “Gravy” from start to finish. Highly subjective; I’d suggest a rental if you’re interested in seeing this after watching the trailer.

The Film: D+ Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: C+ Overall: C

 


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