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Plague Town (2008)

  Tags: Catherine McMorrow, David Gregory, David Lombard, Elizabeth Bove, Erica Rhodes, James Warke, Josslyn DeCrosta, Lindsay Goranson, Michael Donaldson, Plague Town

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (2 votes)
Reviewer Rating: 

Rating #: 
David Gregory
88 minutes
Josslyn DeCrosta, Erica Rhodes, David Lombard, Lindsay Goranson, James Warke, Catherine McMorrow, Elizabeth Bove, Michael Donaldson

"...this is the scariest thing you'll see this year, guaranteed." So says the quote in my local newspaper from the producer of Plague Town. Rather bold statement to live up to. My history with this film goes back two years when I was a lonely intern reading every shiteous script that came into the office. Plague Town had always stuck out as the clean, shiny turd in a pile of smelly manure. It needed some work and was far from original, but I dug it and if given the right directing it held the potential to be a strong independent effort. I had all but forgotten about it until it recently premiered at my theater. The final product, while containing some strong moments, left me disappointed and even angry at how good the movie could have been.

Plague Town, borrowing heavily from the likes of The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, tells the story of an American family attempting to bond as a functioning unit on vacation in Ireland. When they miss the last bus back to the city, they're left stranded in the foreboding emerald woods only to be viciously pursued by blood thirsty, deformed children. Is it just me or does every horror movie about a family open with them bickering back and forth like second graders? These characters are in no way sympathetic and you almost pray for their demises...and to be honest they're far too clichéd even by low budget horror standards. I would for once like to see a perfectly happy family get thrown through the shit storm.

The acting was across the board with the weakest lead being Lindsay Goranson as Annette, but me thinks this may be due to an underdeveloped character. The strongest performance was given by James Warke as the slutty sister's tag along, smart ass boyfriend. He was likable and really elevated the character that was written on page. I have to also give props to Kate Aspinwall who played one of the main mutated children, Rosemary (she's the one with the glass eyes on the poster). Even though she had no lines, she had an almost illuminating presence and the scenes with her character were truly the stand outs. The rest of the actors served their purposes in adequate fashion. Sadly all the cringe worthy dialog from the screenplay draft I read that long time ago had survived into the final cut of the film and there's only so much an actor can do with that.

My main complaint with the film lies solely on the direction. It was too standard and flat without any innovative or creative shot set ups. I would have loved to have seen more camera movement to liven up the action. Work in a good amount of jib and dolly shots to amp up the production value too. Nothing petrifies me more in this world than children, but they weren't scary. Potential was shown when some of the kids wore ceramic masks to cover up their deformities. Unfortunately this was underutilized. These kids should have been creeping around in those masks like The Strangers, pursuing their victims with stealth. But instead they were running around like the laughable demonic shadows at the end of Ghost with their deformed make up shown in all its glory from the moment we see them.

The reason why Jaws is scary is because you don't fully see the shark until the end. The makers of Plague Town should have implied the same theory. From what I know (which may be right or wrong) the movie's budget was in the 400k range...A LOT for a low budget horror movie. Shot on 16mm with a budget like that and no stars, this movie should look fucking fantastic, but it looks somewhat cheap which will hinder its chances of gaining a release outside Straight to DVD. They should have just shot on HD Video and saved a good chunk of the budget.

So if there were all these faults, why did I give it a six, you ask? That's because somewhere around the mid-point, the movie finds its stride. When it's good, it's really good. The scenes in the woods featuring Rosemary are genuinely creepy and resonate a feeling of dread. The entire movie should have been like this. These key scenes almost make up for the weak first act and the over-explanatory ending. The effects work is also notable, with the main accomplishment being a head sliced in two. The movie's not over the top gory, but these scenes are spread throughout the movie enough to liven things up when the pace buckles.

What could have been a truly scary and mean spirited killer children movie was dragged down due to the weak, unimaginative directing style, and the end result is just an okay little movie. The film had the potential to be a lot better than this, but is worth a watch for the scenes that do work and some good performances. And a final FYI...no one in Ireland eats corned beef sandwiches.

Posted on December 9, 2010 - 12:02am | Johnny D