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Review: Top of the Food Chain

By theantix in Media
Thu May 01, 2003 at 08:47:11 PM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)

'Top of the Food Chain', by writer/director John Paizs, is a little-known Canadian film produced in 1999 on the subject of science & technology, culture, and religion.  On the surface the movie is a loose parody of 50's horror movies, but the intensely witty dialog and the outstanding performances by Campbell Scott and Fiona Loewi and others make the film a pleasure to watch.

'Top of the Food Chain' is set in the fictional small town of Exceptional Vista, where most of the people left town after the local nut factory went out of business, leaving only a small handful of oddballs.  When a famous atomic scientist (Campbell Scott) and two traveling salespeople visit the town, the town is plagued with problems.  First the television reception suddenly fails all over town, and then residents start disappearing one by one, victims of hostile aliens.

With the help of a sexy motel manager and her dimwitted brother, the people of town are forced to find and ultimately stop the invaders before they destroy the town and eventually the planet itself.  The premise of the film might sound ludicrous, but that is an intentional part of the self-referential parody at the core of the movie.

This film comes as a great relief to those people who are tired of Hollywood's tired routine towards science fiction. In fact, this film accomplishes the very task that 'When Mars Attacks!' failed at when attempting to cover a similar subject.  It is unpredictable and funny in a way that high-budget Hollywood collaborative productions rarely accomplish, if ever.

The fast paced and well-written dialog is funny in a much different way than found in films like 'Dude, Where's My Car?' or 'Dumb and Dumber' - but if you watch this film you should expect to have many of the quotes follow you around for a long time.  In fact, even several months after watching the film many of my friends still refer to "the hilly, lumpy bumpy part of town outside of town", or "aye, says Jesus, there's the rub" - lines that do not sound funny when read in text but with the delivery by Campbell Scott and others they are unforgettable.  In fact, you may want to go back and watch the film a second time, just to hear the parts of the dialog that you might have missed the first time.

However, this movie is most certainly not for everyone.  It is quirky and odd, and very unlike the conventional straightforward plodding film that many moviegoers tend to expect.  Some of the characters have odd sexual fetishes, while might make certain viewers squeamish, but there is no nudity or sex scenes.  There is a little bit of gore and violence in the film, but it is done more in the low-budget tradition of implying violence and hinting at gore (a la 'The Blair Witch Project') - nothing that should bother most moviegoers.

Unfortunately, you will likely not be able to find this movie at your local Blockbuster.  If you want to find 'Top of the Food Chain' for rental, you will probably have to find a specialty video store in order to find it.  In the United States you may have to look for the film under the alternate title 'Invasion!', and in Europe look for 'Welcome to Exceptional Vista'.  If you enjoyed this movie, I have to suggest you look for other works by John Paizs, in particular 'Crime Wave' (1985).  'Crime Wave' is a remarkably different film from 'Top of the Food Chain', but also quite enjoyable.

If you do end up seeing this film, or if you have already seen it, please reply with your reaction, I would be very interested to hear what other Kuro5hin readers thought of it.


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Review: Top of the Food Chain | 42 comments (15 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
Crime Wave (none / 0) (#9)
by rusty on Thu May 01, 2003 at 04:45:32 PM EST

Not to be confused with Crimewave, the early Coen brothers low-budget pulp-orama, which features Bruce Campbell as "The Heel." Also worth seeing if you're a Campbell/Coen nut, but not exactly what you'd call a good movie. :-)

I wish Netflix had Top of the Food Chain. It looks like I'd like it.

Not the real rusty

Actually, it is on netflix (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by theantix on Thu May 01, 2003 at 04:49:09 PM EST

It's listed under the alternate title released in the USA -- check out http://www.netflix.com/MovieDisplay?movieid=60003308&trkid=73

"you're essentially living the life of an upper-class homeless person" -- some asshole
[ Parent ]
Sweet (none / 0) (#17)
by rusty on Thu May 01, 2003 at 05:24:25 PM EST

Top 'o' the queue now. Thanks!

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
I remember seeing that one too (none / 0) (#16)
by demi on Thu May 01, 2003 at 05:15:43 PM EST

After Evil Dead II came to video stores (cable TV wouldn't touch it), everything Raimi and the Bruce ever did instantly became cult. It was a sorta crazy movie, not really that funny or even good. But it had the Bruce and a lot of violence, which was good enough for me.

But did anyone here play the early side-scroller VGA game Crime Wave from Access, circa 1990? It was one of the first PC games with sprite explosions, PC speaker sound effects that kicked ass, screaming and death abounded.

[ Parent ]

Well first of all, (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by terpy on Thu May 01, 2003 at 05:30:34 PM EST

+1 FP author is theantix

Secondly, I will say that I have seen this movie and Crime Wave (a few times now, courtesy of theantix) and they are absolutely delightful. The film quality is low, but the dialogue is fabulous and and even brilliant at some points. No slow points, the movie constatnyl keeps you chuckling. It surprised me so much that you might say I'm suffering from some sort of "post-scared state". A very quotable movie, although those that haven't seen it probably won't laugh at your one liners cribbed from the dialogue.

"I need a spotlight with a baseball bat silhouette, so I can summon Armaphine from his Fortress of Clue."-

Well (none / 0) (#41)
by rusty on Tue May 27, 2003 at 08:02:00 PM EST

If people don't laugh, it could just be that they are suffering from some sort of post-cranial-bonk condition.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
you can get it from netflix or greencine (none / 0) (#24)
by asad on Thu May 01, 2003 at 05:58:09 PM EST

I put it in my queu in greencine and will watch it later. Sadly it looks like it's not part of the walmart DVD rental service. Nice review btw.

The idea that (none / 0) (#25)
by Pop Top on Thu May 01, 2003 at 06:01:04 PM EST

self-referential parody would appeal to users of K5 is just too ludicrous to contemplate.

However, given the author's rep, I guess I need to find this movie.

+1 (Do you prefer Section or FP for this?)  

Looks worthwhile (none / 0) (#30)
by relayswitch on Thu May 01, 2003 at 07:07:04 PM EST

Now to see if my located-in-a-podunk-town video store with the amazingly good collection can get this for me... Switch

interesting (none / 0) (#32)
by freya on Thu May 01, 2003 at 08:09:39 PM EST

i'll look for it

Fantastic Movie (none / 0) (#35)
by Imperfect on Fri May 02, 2003 at 12:00:59 AM EST

Loved it both times I saw it. Caught it on Space the other evening. So damn weird, but then again, so damn funny. =)

Not perfect, not quite.
Sounds very similar to another movie... (none / 0) (#36)
by cavemankiwi on Fri May 02, 2003 at 11:06:11 AM EST

called bad taste, which was the first popular movie directed by Peter Jackson. Bloody comical movie to boot. Sheep blowing up, Beatles Morris minor and flesh eating aliens what more can a man ask for?

Much like it is to indie music (none / 0) (#37)
by auraslip on Fri May 02, 2003 at 01:36:05 PM EST

p2p could be of great help to indie movies.
Oh holy god is that funny (none / 0) (#40)
by rusty on Tue May 27, 2003 at 07:59:40 PM EST

I got it from Netflix, and am hanging on to it to watch it again. That may be the single most intensely concentrated source of repeatable lines since Airplane!.

Not the real rusty
Oh yes, you must watch it again (none / 0) (#42)
by theantix on Sat May 31, 2003 at 03:04:35 PM EST

Unless you are remarkably different than me, you will catch new lines the second and third viewings that you missed the first time over.

With faith such as yours, I'm sure science will prevail!

"SalesGirl was my designated driver" -- terpy
[ Parent ]

Review: Top of the Food Chain | 42 comments (15 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
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