FEEDING THE MASSES, a 2004 indie production from director Richard Griffin, takes a satirical approach with his zombies, using them--theoretically, anyways--to criticize the media and its tendency to manipulate reality. Metaphorically speaking, it's a rich vein to mine for zombie-oriented thrills, but a tag team of weak script and indifferent direction keeps it from achieving more than burning ninety-odd minutes.
The story, hatched by actor Trent Haaga (who's quickly becoming a regular here, having appeared in almost half a dozen or so prior entries), tells of a looming undead apocalypse that's being kept quiet by news officials and military personnel, lest the general public be driven to panic by the truth. We follow an intrepid reporter named Torch (Billy Garberina) as he and his motley news crew travels about, manufacturing fluff pieces to lull the public into false security, but when Torch records footage of the spreading zombie plague (as well as learning the situation is far worse than originally feared), he finds himself being silenced by various gatekeepers of the truth.
Haaga arms himself with plenty of material to use, then decides to ignore it all, not allowing his premise to evolve past the initial set-up. Little attention is given to the office politics that dictates what makes it on the air and what is censored, which I suppose makes sense since we as the audience doesn't really get to see just how far-reaching the zombie epidemic is. I would've much preferred seeing how reality is compromised in the editing bay to a soothing, palatable balm instead of the standard low-budget zombie "action" scenes we're shown. Nor do we see the effect the manipulated news has on the public; you'd think that by twisting the facts, there'd be some dire consequences for somebody--such as telling shoppers it's safe to visit the zombie-ridden business district--yet we don't see the aftereffects of the higher-up's decisions.
MASSES also tries to enrich its universe with various commercials and news clips on such topics as the dead-rights movement, local anti-zombie militias (represented by a pitifully stereotypical redneck), and reburial services, but these segments have a cutesy, in-joke feel to them that works against the movie as a whole, particularly the Duck-and-Cover-inspired propoganda newsreel, demonstrating an equally ludicrous method of surviving a zombie attack, which is so poorly executed it's laughable.
The film's low-grade production values don't help either, giving what is supposedly a national (or global) phenomenon an uncomfortably cramped, restrained feel. The cinematography looks cheap, with a quality not unlike a high school video project (which at least keeps things consistent, as many of the scenes are blocked in the same manner as a hastily-assembled student play). Griffin has assembled a cast that isn't horrible, yet their performances have a strange, hard-to-pin-down hollowness to them that prevents them from being engaging.
For all of its lofty intentions, FEEDING THE MASSES just doesn't have the oomph behind it--creatively or technically--to pull off its desired effect. Its heart is in the right place, but it seems like the only part of the film that founds its way.