AUGUST 6, 2009
I think I have put more effort into watching Small Town Folk than I have for any other movie in history. I rented it from the store a while back, but the disc wouldn’t play on my DVD player. So I drove back to the store and replaced it for their other copy, only to run into the same problem. I tried copying the disc onto a DVD-R, but the same problem plagued my DVD-ROM drive, so I gave up and queued it from the online service. But the shipment was lost, so I ended up having to report it and have them send me another. For Christ’s sake, can’t a man watch a Warwick Davis movie at ease?
Now, it would be easy for me to say “this also means I put in more effort than the filmmakers did”, but that would be a cheap shot, and not even true. While the film has its share of problems, it’s actually quite evident that everyone worked hard and with genuine enthusiasm for what they were making, which is enough for me to overlook most of its problems.
Two issues though, I need to address. And one is more just a question - why did they shoot half of the movie in front of greenscreen? It’s obvious that they wanted a hyper-reality look for Grockleton, so even though it’s not very well done (learn to use the matte choker filter!) at least it made visual sense, unlike the Pulse sequels. But again - why only half? If you’re going to do it, stick with it for the whole movie. So scenes will be largely shot on a real location, but a few close-ups or cutaways will be shot over a greenscreen. It’s sort of like watching Transformers 2 in IMAX; you’re constantly snapped in and out of the “world” of the movie by technical change-ups.
Also, the script. Come on guys, you gotta put a little more effort into these things. I can say without hyperbole that there are eight million horror movies like this, but scriptwise, there is nothing unique here to set it apart from those. Folks come to the creepy little town, the residents try to kill them. That’s it. There’s some stuff about them wanting to breed with strangers to keep their bloodline going, but even that’s been done before. In fact, I saw a movie at Screamfest last year called The Season that this reminded me of on a few occasions. In fact,I didn’t even bother to review that one because I already had another film for the day, but more because it was so stripped down in the story department that I felt like I myself had nothing new to add to what I had already written about similar films.
But the script lapses are made up for by the interesting visual scheme. Sure, it’s not the best green-screen work, but it’s interesting to watch nonetheless. And again, unlike Pulse 2/3, it’s intentionally a bit off, so it works to the film’s favor (had they had the money for a longer prologue, I’d have suggested that they pull a Wizard of Oz and have the opening scenes in the “real” world shot normally, only to switch to the greenscreen stuff once they enter Grockleton).
The various killers are also a delightful lot. One in particular looks like something out of the most fucked up version of Wizard Of Oz’s Scarecrow ever, with a giant carrot nose for good measure. And even though he’s only in it for like 5 minutes, Warwick is a delight; not only is he out of makeup for once, but he plays his entire role on a big mook of a man’s back, and even gets a few limericks in to appease his Leprechaun fanbase.
It’s also got a pretty great soundtrack. The score is a bit generic (apparently they have never met the composer in person), but the songs are terrific. Think the Dropkick Murphys but more folky and you’d have the right idea. If there is a soundtrack album, I would certainly consider picking it up.
One of the songs has a music video at the end of the “Grocklementary”, which is the film’s behind the scenes piece. It’s a fun piece, showing the team efforts of these guys and just how DIY the film really was (the director goes to a convenience store to buy a pregnancy test to be used in the film). It ends with a delightfully random series of trivia facts about the production (and other things that have no relation to the film, like that Cleopatra married two of her brothers), which I think is a first. There is also a commentary track with like six or seven people, including director Peter Stanley-Ward. As with all these multiple people commentaries, I have no idea who is who, but it’s a good track all the same; they not only admit certain mistakes (always a plus with me) but they also have a sense of humor about the low budget, instead of whining and using it as an excuse as several other low-budget filmmakers have done on these things.
So was it worth all my efforts? Eh, not really - the thin story means that I probably won’t remember much about it in a few months. But the visuals, interesting killers, and often successful humor (“If it’s a boy we’ll call him Rupert, and if it’s a girl we’ll call him Rupert”) was enough to make it enjoyable all the same. And having seen more than my fair share of American “true” independent films, it’s nice to see one from across the pond for once.
What say you?