Plague Town DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee Pattee
DVD released by Dark Sky Films
We've got one. We've got one. WE'VE GOT ONE! – Crazy Ass Grandmother Lady
Directed by David Gregory
Written by David Gregory and John Cregan
2008, Region 1 (NTSC), 85 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on May 12th, 2009
Josslyn DeCrosta as Molly
Erica Rhodes as Jessica
James Warke as Robin
Lindsay Goranson as Annette
David Lombard as Jerry
Kate Aspinwall as Rosemary
Plague Town has a splendid opening. Somewhere in Ireland, a young girl in the final stages of pregnancy is deathly scared of what might be expelled from between her legs. A priest shows up just before the baby is born and comforts her, telling her not to worry. Trust in God (or some such nonsense). However, the priest's attitude changes when the baby finally arrives, and he declines the girl's pleas to see the newborn as he takes out a gun to put a cap in the child's head.
Sadly, before the priest gets a chance to pop the kid the father of the baby kills him. How awesome is that? If babies aren't dying, then seemingly evil priests are. Can it get any better than this? Well, almost.
14 years after the priest's death, an American family is touring Europe and, because of their bickering, they miss the bus that was going to take them back to wherever they were going back to. So they spend some time fighting and trying to find either a place to hole up for the night or a phone to call for some transportation. Of course they end up on the outskirts of the town where the priest was murdered, that's a no brainer, but the monkey in the machine is the priest was doing the right thing by trying to kill that child. Apparently, the babies in this backwoods town have been coming out deformed for years, and the priest was keeping that in check. After his death, nobody took up that role, and now the town is overflowing with creepy little bastards that don't play nice At All.
Having done tons of documentaries on horror films, including "Three Colors Black" found on the Trilogy of Terror DVD and the documentary Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth, co-writer and director David Gregory is no stranger to horror. But Plague Town is Gregory's first entrance in the movie side of filmmaking, and it's obviously not a documentary.
Plague Town suffers from two things that hurt most first time filmmakers: Pacing and character development. The family looking for a safe haven is very stereotypical. One daughter, Molly, is gothy and medicated and the other, Jessica, is bitchy and slutty. When Jerry, the father, is not busting up fights between his two girls, he's stopping spats between Jessica and Annette, Jerry's girlfriend (it's never explained what happened to the girls' real mother, but Jessica is obviously bitter about it). Throw into the mix Robin, the smarmy new boyfriend of Jessica's, and there is just one fight after another for the first third of the movie. It not only gets old, but it gets to a point where you just don't care about any of the characters. Even Molly, the girl you are supposed to root for, becomes a victim of this indifference.
The movie reminds me a lot of Wolf Creek because along with the character development, the time spent to get to the point we are all waiting for is somewhat wasted. For much of Plague Town, instead of getting more of what happened during those missing 14 years, or even outsiders that might have ventured in, there are arguments, bickering and fights. When the family does run into the rare townsfolk, there is not enough time spent with them (think of the bar scene in Creek). There was too much of the same and you never learned enough about the main characters — or any character, for that matter — to relate to any of them.
Yet Plague Town does share one other very important thing with Wolf Creek: a movie-saving villain. Those damn creepy kids.
Kids can be creepy. Kids with deformities chasing you with butcher knives, scythes and pitchforks are creepy. These little hellions are led by a girl who was obviously modeled after a horrific Raggedy Ann doll is the stuff nightmares are made of, and it's here where Plague Town really, really shines. Like Creek, sitting through some of the more tiresome scenes was well worth it by the time the show really starts. You'll know that time, too. It's not when Molly sees the strange face in the forest, and nobody believes her because she could be having an episode. It's not when Jessica and Robin discover that decrepit abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. It's not when Jerry comes looking for them a short time later and finds the house isn't abandoned after all, there are children hiding in it and they want to play. No, it's none of these. Plague Town's defining moment is when Robin is led to a house that is straight out of "Hansel and Gretel", complete with a table full of marshmallow treats. And once the grandmotherly figure introduces Robin to Rosemary, the Raggedy Ann from hell, and announces she is 'of age', that is when the party starts.
Also kicking in that last third is the blood. Oh the blood. Gore fans will find something to love in this film, as Plague Town isn't shy about getting under your skin. There are some impressive effects in this low-budget movie, and I admit two scenes made me tense up.
Plague Town is a tough film to grade. For much of the movie, you are sitting around waiting for something to happen, but the moment it does you are sucked right into the film. If the entire movie had been as rock star as the final 35 minutes, this would have been one hell of a feature film debut for Gregory. It's well worth a rental for the finale alone, but it's a hard blind buy recommendation. Fortunately, the movie has set itself up nicely for a sequel, which would be a great thing. I really do want to see more of Rosemary, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Video and Audio:
Shot on 16mm, Plague Town's 1.78:1 anamorphic picture has a nice, gritty feel to it that really adds to the film's flavor. Colors are muted, but that looks to be intentional, giving the movie a cold, drab and hopeless look. It's rare anymore when a low-budget movie is shot on film, so this was a very nice change from digital.
The offered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is pretty decent. The mix is solid, with crystal clear dialogue and a good use of the sides and rears for ambient noise.
- A Visit To Plague Town Featurette
- The Sounds Of Plague Town Featurette
- Audio Commentary With Director David Gregory & Producer Derek Curl
The commentary with producer Derek Curl and Daniel Gregory drags in parts, but there is some good info to be gleaned from it if you liked the movie. Surprisingly, they spend very little time talking about the cast, but rather discuss things like locations, effects and some of the problems with filming low-budget (like uncooperative weather).
"A Visit to Plague Town" runs about a half of an hour and consists of numerous interviews with cast and crew. It's more than a fluff piece, as they actually talk about the film rather than how great it was to work with one another and is an enjoyable watch.
The second featurette, "The Sounds of Plague Town" covers the sound design of the movie. At about 15 minutes, I found it far more interesting than "A Visit to Plague Town" if only the rarity of featurettes of this type. The featurette covers both the music cues and the sound effects and after watching it, I wish this piece was 30 minutes and the other 15. I highly recommend giving this a whirl.
(Equipment includes a Mitsubishi WS-48613 48” HDTV, OPPO DV-970HD DVD player and Onkyo HTS-770 Home Theater System and, in some cases, a Sony 27” WEGA TV and a Sony DVP-NS50P DVD player.)