Locals, The (2003)

Staring John Barker (Mercy Peak), Dwayne Cameron (The Tribe), Kate Elliott (Toy Love, ) and newcomer Aidee Walker

Directed by Greg Page

The Locals, for those of you out of the loop, is the low budget New Zealand-made horror movie about two mates (as in friends not breeding partners) who on their way to a weekend of surfing and partying find themselves stranded in a particularily hostile bit of country where “the locals” don’t take kindly to strangers, especially strangers from the big city, and most especially strangers from the big city…who are still alive.

The movie starts off with an aerial shot of rural farmland, interwoven with shots of old long decayed bits of machinery and rundown houses accompanied by a quite effective piece of eerie music. The aerial shot closes in on a farmer frantically digging a grave on the outskirts of the woods when a mysterious figure comes up behind him, slits his throat, and drops him into the shallow pit.

We are now introduced to Grant (John Barker) in bed and sulking about being dumped by his girlfriend (the reason he was dumped provides one of the films many comedic touches later on) only to be forced out of his emotional slump by his plucky best friend Paul (Dwayne Cameron). I have to admit my reaction to Paul showing up was “God it’s not going to be another Truth About Demons where we have the straight faced leading man with the anoying and terribly acted comic relief buddy are we?” But thankfully no, in fact Cameron is probably the better of the two leads, not to say that Barker is bad, he just seemed a bit nervous in front of the camera at times.

Now on the road to the coast for some surfing and drinking we essentially get an advertisement for the movie soundtrack with scenes of the two friends goofing around, showing the chemistry and comradery between them that will make their later perils have a bit more dramatic weight. Night falls and the two lads are now stopped in front of a rickety old road block. Grant protests that it says the road is closed but Paul of course thinks he knows better because this way’s a…din, din, din, din…Shortcut! Before they can head down the dirt road they are blocked by a car coming the other way. Out of the car come two women dressed like they’re in a handbag commercial from the 80’s. The girls ask if our two heros are going to the party. Well of course they are but where is it? “Just follow us,” they say “…if you can keep up.” Not to have his driving skills be put into question, Paul engages in a highspeed car chase with the two out of fasion party girls until out of nowhere another car runs them off the road and into a ditch. The kind of ditch you cant get out of in a movie without a tow truck.

So the two lads set off on foot down the road to find a house to use a telephone, but the first house they come across is owned by none other than mysterious throat slitting guy and they arrive just in time to see him murder his wife though the window. Paul screams, Mysterious Guy sees him, and now the real movie begins as . . . ( I wont go into any plot details from now on because it would detract from the viewing experience).

Grant, Paul and the 80’s Chicks have to run, hide, and fight to stay alive. In reviews I’ve read for this film I’ve heard it described as a combination of Night of the Living Dead, The Sixth Sense, Deliverence, and numerous other films, but to me the movie it most resembles is (provided you replace the dinosaurs with creepy rednecks) Jurassic Park 3. The main characters are given a goal they need to accomplish but there’s always somthing lurking around the corner waiting for a chance to try and kill them. While I personally hated JP3, what made the difference here is that there’s the mystery of exactly what the deal is with this creepy part of the countryside, and the slow unraveling of that mystery along with the atmospheric urgency kept me engaged for the entire length of the film.

The acting? While certainly not mind blowing it was at the very least up to par, with the chemistry between the leads good for the most part, though there are patches where the dialogue felt a bit awkward and forced. Makeup? Well, there’s not really a whole lot to say since it’s mostly bloodstains with a few nasty head injuries here and there. Scares? I’d say there are about two or three legitimate scares, but it’s really suspence more than horror.

I went into it expecting it to be pretty crappy but it really wasn’t a bad little flick. Certainly not the scariest thing you could ever see but not bad. I’ve come to the conclusion that if there’s one thing that can make a low budget horror movie overcome its financial shortcomings, it’s youthful enthusiasm, and that’s one thing this movie has in bucket loads.

3 1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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