JUNE 9, 2009
I almost watched Plague Town a few weeks ago at the Fangoria convention, but the screening room was changed. It wasn’t great to begin with in the room where I watched Mum & Dad, but it looked even worse at the new location, so I said “I’ll wait to see it properly”, especially since I’m not a fan of projected DVDs to begin with. So it’s kind of ironic that I ended up seeing it that way anyway, albeit in a much more preferable locale (the New Bev), with a professional setup to boot. The picture was a notch or two above what I expect for a DVD projection (having suffered through many at various film festivals), though the audio was a bit blown out, albeit still better than Fangoria’s joke of a speaker setup.
Luckily, the film itself was solid enough to put my issues with the audio aside. Like Eden Lake, we once again have tourists being menaced by a mob of the town’s children, but in this case they are mutated freaks, with some truly freaky designs on a few of them (I love the main girl , Rosemary, who has a bandage and doll eyes covering where her real eyes would be). And instead of a couple, we have a dysfunctional family (father, two daughters, new stepmom, and one of the daughters’ boyfriend), which allows for more kills and more suspense.
One thing that really impressed me was the shooting locale. I never doubted for a second that they were in Ireland, but it was actually all shot in Connecticut (making this, I think, the first horror movie to be shot in the US despite taking place in another country - usually it’s the other way around). Christ, I’ve probably been through the shooting areas and still had no idea. Excellent work on director David Gregory and DP Brian Rigney Hubbard’s part.
I also loved the pace. Some of these movies (including Eden Lake) take a bit too long setting everything up, but that’s not the case here. They get stranded around the 15 minute mark (and some weird stuff has already happened) and the kids start popping up shortly thereafter. Our first death is probably around the 30 minute mark, which is damned impressive (especially considering who gets it first). And even without the scare/suspense stuff, the film still entertains due to the foul-mouthed bickering between the two sisters (who couldn’t look less alike, but whatever). There’s something about a girl calling another one a “fucking cunt” that will always bring a smile to my face (especially at the Bev, where such sentiment is rightfully applauded). It teeters on the brink of just getting annoying, but like I said, the bad shit starts going on earlier than usual/expected, so I forgave the film this trespass.
The only real blight is the abrupt ending, which leaves one character’s fate up to the imagination to boot. It seems like a movie where we would get an explanation for the mutated children or a real epic struggle/escape for the heroine, but it just sort of peters out. Gregory explained during the Q&A that he wasn’t interested in explaining everything, and that’s fine (he used the Night of the Living Dead example), but the ending could have packed a bit more of a punch, especially considering how solid and creepy the first hour or so was. On the flipside, the movie does not fall into the usual trap of these “a good family runs afoul of a group of whatevers that have been killing tourists for ages” movies. Without spoiling anything, I must say that I appreciated the overall outcome in terms of who lives/who dies.
I also loved the score, as well as the techno-y/dance song over the credits. Since the audio was a bit blown out, I may rent the DVD just to hear the music again. Also, the sound design was terrific; I actually commented during the film that it may be the most aggressive sound mix I’ve heard at the Bev. Usually I’m there watching older movies that existed before 5.1 surround sound, so it was strange to hear creepy laughing children behind me (and I kept turning around to see them; it’s the modern equivalent of the audience ducking when they saw the train coming toward them back in ye olden times).
Speaking of the DVD, it’s also on Blu-ray, and I may check it out just to see what a Super 16 movie looks like on the format. If Gregory hadn’t told us, I would have sworn that the film was shot in 35mm; even with the DVD projection it still looked great.
As Grindhouse guru Brian Quinn explained after the movie, eventually they will run out of 60s-80s movies to show and will have to start embracing more modern fare (in twenty years, movies like Plague Town will be “old”, after all). I do not disagree, but unlike many of the movies they show, this one doesn’t need a big audience to aid your enjoyment of it (such as The Sinful Dwarf, which they screened after Plague and even with a crowd was still kind of dull whenever the title character wasn’t onscreen). Check it out.
What say you?