I love horror movies that refuse to play by the rules. Feast, currently playing Friday and Saturday midnight shows before making its debut on DVD next month, is one such movie. As a byproduct of Project Greenlight, the cable series produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to find and encourage aspiring filmmakers, Feast is one hell of a ride.

Feast got lost in the shuffle when Miramax cofounders Bob and Harvey Weinstein left Disney to start their own company. Instead of just dumping Feast onto DVD, the film is making the rounds as a midnight movie, and it’s there, in the late-night caffeine-and drug-drenched auditoriums that the film will get the respect it deserves.

A group of strangers find themselves trapped in a desert bar when otherworldly creatures invite themselves over for dinner. Effectively economical, Feast never takes itself seriously. From the hilarious introduction of the characters — onscreen bios revealing their nicknames, occupations and survival chances — to the explosive finale, Feast keeps its tongue firmly in cheek.

Gulager uses the budget’s limitations to his advantage. Instead of just pointing the camera and hoping for the best, Gulager and director of photography Thomas L. Callaway bounce the camera around the bar like a pinball, ricocheting off walls and floors, pausing only long enough to reload and spring back into action. Rarely does the camera stop, forcing us to stay on our toes.

The gutsy script by Marcus Dunston and Patrick Melton keep the characters on their toes, forcing them to leap from one horrific moment to the next, until all but a handful of survivors are left for the final face-off. What comes after the main credits and before the final roll is a crimson-soaked tribute to grand, goofy horror films. People don’t just die in Feast, they are obliterated. Heroes don’t last long, sacred lambs are sacrificed, and before you can say what the hell, half the cast has been sliced and diced into pulp.

Behind all of the carnage is Gulager, an impish, red-haired eccentric, whose obnoxious, almost childish behavior was caught, warts and all, in the Project Greenlight series. Like all great demented artists, Gulager had a hard time conveying the images in his head. He knew what he wanted, he just wasn’t used to sharing the information with dozens of people. Gulager was the best thing about the final installment of the series, a real-life character who seemed like the conductor of a train getting ready to derail.

The biggest shock is how well Feast works, and it works because of Gulager, who always finds fascinating ways of taking the obvious and making it his own. Dark-house movies are a dime a dozen, mostly because it is cheap and easy to toss a bunch of whiners into a room and feed them to a killer or a monster. What distinguishes Feast is the ferocity Gulager and his cast bring to the proceedings. Their conviction is so absolute you have no choice but to buy into the premise, even if it’s vague and never explained.

That’s another thing I liked about Feast: The writers never succumb to the obvious. We never know where these creatures come from (although the film is extremely graphic in showing how they reproduce), and the characters, who are identified by their nicknames, never sit down and share one of those Poltergeist moments filled with supposition. Feast is what it is and never apologizes for that fact.

Shot like a grind-house film from the ’70s, Feast looks raw. Neon lights bathe the action, giving the rip-and-shred aspect of the gore a surreal effect. So when someone is torn in half, it’s more giddy than gruesome, just like the rest of the film.