An obsessive food collector, determined not to desecrate his precious vittles, resorts to the atrocious act of cannibalism in a new film from writer/directory Matthew Roth.
Miguel Appet is a serious collector. He must have the color variants, the rarities, the 1950s originals: every food he can find – and keep – in mint condition. No one but his overbearing mother knows that his home, tucked in the quiet suburb of Cibuston, has become a massive museum to comestibles. His neighbors to the right, dad Horace and son Eustice, don’t notice a thing as they plot their next deer hunt. And his neighbor to the left, Kelvin Green, is too busy searching for the alien he’s sure attacked him once. And Miguel eats…people. He has to, since eating his precious food is not an option. However, being a cannibal is not as easy as it seems, especially when you have a food collection to take care of…
While serving as a craft services assistant on a shoot, writer/directory Matthew Roth found himself surrounded with nothing but food and the occasional crew member stopping by to grab a snack. It was during this time he noticed a package of food with the word “signature” stamped below the product’s name. It was at that moment he found reason to question why this one was the “signature” version of the product. Wondering what the regular version was or if one even existed, his imagination took over and he embraced it. “What if someone actually collected this stuff?” he thought to himself. “What if someone actually went to the supermarket to locate different food packages with different designs and sizes?” Being a collector of various items himself, Roth knew he had an idea he could really expand upon. More questions such as “Why would he collect food?” and “What would he eat?” sprung to mind and Roth knew he was on to something new and exciting. Cannibalism seemed like the obvious answer to the latter question and what ensued was two years of writing draft after draft of The Man Who Collected Food, trying to find the perfect tone, story, characters, and events to take place for the film. Then in the summer of 2008, a cast and crew of very gifted, passionate and talented individuals assembled to bring this world of food to the big screen. With the desire to enthrall and surprise audiences with the rarest collector of them all, The Man Who Collected Food, the cast and crew spent over a month imagining, creating, and embellishing a world that revolved around food.
Review by Bill Gordon
The Man Who Collected Food (2009)
Directed by: Matthew Roth
Starring: Mike N. Kelly, Gary Wagner, Lila Miller, Russell Fox, Joey Urreta, Connie Cowper, Tiren Jhames
(out of 4)
The indie horror/black comedy The Man Who Collected Food certainly has an interesting premise: an early 30s loner named Miguel, who has to deal with a nagging mother as well as crazy neighbors, develops an interesting hobby – collecting food. Special edition boxes of cereal, cans from the 50s, that kind of thing. (In the interests of full disclosure, yours truly owns two food products related to the Simpsons movie). Certainly one of the weirdest compulsive disorders I have seen in a film, it becomes a problem for him because whenever he’s hungry he can’t open up anything in the house – it’s all part of his precious collection, and opening anything up would devalue it. Naturally, he ends up turning to another source of food – people. The movie follows Miguel as he looks forward to food conventions, jumps for joy in the local supermarket when he finds something for his collection, deals with bizarre neighbors as well as his interfering mother, and, um, occasionally kills and eats victims he has chained up in his freezer. It all results in a quirky movie that’s a bit of a mess of constantly shifting tones – a gory and occasionally amusing flick about a very odd cannibal.
Perhaps part of the problem with the movie is that Miguel is unlikeable. Even if he wasn’t a torturing, murdering cannibal type, you still wouldn’t like the guy (which becomes a problem in a film where you can’t relate to anyone). Rude, abusive, and indifferent to the suffering of others, it’s no wonder that he has no friends, with the exception of weird neighbor Kelvin (Gary Wagner), who seems to think Miguel is his only friend. Kelvin is constantly running around with a shotgun, looking for an alien that doesn’t seem to die (and nobody ever sees the thing except Kelvin, of course). Covered in some kind of green substance (alien blood) for most of the film, he bemoans the fact the the stuff won’t wash off. On the other side of Miguel’s house is a trailer lived in by redneck stereotype Horace (Russell Fox) and his foul mouthed boy Eustice (Joey Urreta). They are fond of hunting and also occasionally shoot off their shotguns – so, where the hell is this neighborhood, exactly? None of the people in Miguel’s life, even his interfering mother, seem to notice Miguel’s odd behaviors – like talking to himself constantly, and somehow kidnapping a large number of people (we never see him doing it), but then again this movie exists in a bizarre universe consisting of the most ineffectual, useless people around. The police never seem to notice the missing people problem, and when confronted with evidence of a deranged cannibal – who at one point massacres an entire support group, and later in the film invades a hospital and eats a patient alive (with witnesses) – they still can’t put two and two together. In addition, Miguel is either very lucky or possesses some kind of supernatural ability, since on more than one occasion he manages to overcome attacks from many people at once.
Miguel’s constant talking to himself (he’s got no inner monologue – seriously) became a bit of a distraction for me. It sorta took me out of the film, even though I am pretty sure that “vocalizing” his thoughts was intentional on writer/director Matthew Roth’s part (it happens way too often to be otherwise). I understand that he deliberately made that choice, but I don’t understand why – it’s more suitable for reading a novel than watching a film, which should “show” things more than “tell” them, if you understand my meaning. However, Mike Kelly’s performance is pretty good, as is Wagner’s (and Wagner has this odd Mel Gibson kinda look, too). The movie also looks good – it’s shot well and the gore effects are fairly realistic. There’s an interesting sequence where he goes to a support group meeting to talk about his cannibalistic tendencies, and the group leader points out the flaws in his logic (if you eat people for food, they then become food “items” and should then be considered collectibles). Of course, since people don’t come in the store wrapped in plastic, Miguel doesn’t buy it, and ends up killing everyone in the room so they don’t call the cops on him. (What did he expect?) Still, I must ask – what’s to stop Miguel from going deer hunting, or eating stray dogs, birds, rats, mice? You certainly don’t see them wrapped up at the supermarket. There’s also no reason for Miguel not to eat cans and bags of “regular” food – after all, most food doesn’t come in “special editions” – it’s all mass produced in the thousands, so basically that aspect of the plot doesn’t hold up. The only thing left to consider is that Miguel is a cannibal using food collecting as a (not very believable) excuse. But how he came to practice that particular hobby is not clear, also not clear is how he is “cured” of it in the film’s messy conclusion.
The characters surrounding Miguel are amusing as caricatures but they remain merely that for most of the film – only towards the end, when they become victims, does their humanity show through. As for Miguel himself, he has hardly any humanity at all. Basically, he’s just like the “alien” that Kelvin chases around for the duration – if there’s a method to his madness, or a twisted logic to his actions, it’s not something that I understand. Perhaps that is the point, but I still got the impression that Man Who Collected Food is trying to say something about consumerism. “What do you collect?” is the question Miguel asks a victim (right before he force-feeds her her own toe) – obviously she’s in no condition to answer his question, but he’s not really asking her, he’s directing the movie’s tagline to the audience. But what is the message? I’m not really sure, beyond the Tyler Durden-esque saying “The things you own end up owning you.” In any case, there’s talent and potential here, and a part of me appreciates this movie’s absurd premise and attempts to gleefully offend. I look forward to more from Matthew Roth and Hrothgar Studios in the future.
- Bill Gordon
About Matthew Roth
From the early age of five, Roth always had a story to share and did so through writing fictional stories of various lengths often accompanied by drawings. However, it was not until high school he realized his dream of becoming a motion picture director. Always believing film was the best way to share a story, Roth attended Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida for two years where he did everything possible to learn about the art of filmmaking. Countless hours were spent as a production assistant on films of students shooting their final projects where he networked and learned from those who had been through the entire program and were in preparation to begin their careers as professional filmmakers. During this time, Roth’s drive and ambition took him well beyond volunteer work.
He helmed numerous short films with the desire to improve his skills as a director and learn how to work with actors, finding ways to bring the absolute best out of them. In two years, Roth obtained his Bachelor’s Degree, built up an impressive resume as both a production assistant and director, and had completed his first feature length script entitled, “The Man Who Collected Food.” Two weeks following graduation, Roth ventured across the country, settling in Los Angeles, California where he worked feverishly on perfecting his script and securing financing for it. During this time, he also found work as a production assistant on a handful of films and the opportunity to direct his first airing commercial. Then, in the summer of 2008, Roth ventured out to Michigan to shoot “The Man Who Collected Food.”
Following a 5 week shooting schedule, Roth spent the next year in post-production with the film and is currently looking for distribution for his debut feature film.
Mike Kelly has been known to play everything from the conservative office worker, to the loveable lunatic, the intelligent murderer, and everything in between. His main love is comedy, but also enjoys playing dark characters. He has studied professionally since his college years, first graduating Cum Laude in Theatre and Communications from Eastern Michigan University, and then later taking courses in Meiser acting, Commercial acting courses in Chicago, and Improv Training at the Second City of Detroit. He loves acting, and excels in playing characters that are self-absorbed, eccentric, dorks, or villainous. He takes excellent direction and brings a lot to the roles as he excels at improv and trying new things. He also has an excellent reputation of getting along with others on the set and making things move forward quickly.
He also works as a writer and talent for J. Lauri Filmworks in Birmingham, Michigan. He writes on-camera commercials and voice over commercials and various other scripts for special projects. Mike works as a freelancer doing voice over work for companies using his home studio. Some of Mike’s other interests including writing and recording music in his home studio, as he plays guitar, keyboard and sings. He loves to sing, having choral experience, and likes to create unique harmonies in his music. Mike loves to travel and plans to travel to Europe in the next several years. He has a fascination with older films from the 30′s, through the 50′s and the stars and producers that brought much to the art of filmmaking. Mike has an extensive list of films, commercials, industrial films, voice over projects, modeling, and stage work he has been a part of.