Plague, The (DVD)
Directed by Hal Masonberg
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Before you get too excited by the mention of Clive Barker's name above the title of this flick, let me set the record straight -- this is not a true Clive Barker film. He served only as a producer, and from the looks of the finished product, it's a pretty safe bet that his input was minimal at best. Imagine if you will that you are in a car that's moving at one hundred miles per hour. The scenery is flying by in a blur and you're having one hell of a good time. Then it happens. One of your tires pops, and all of a sudden you fly straight into a brick wall. It's startlingly apparent there will be no recovery from this wreck. Your vehicle is crushed, and all the air is sucked straight out of your body. You're left hanging limp. Everything that you know is fading fast and you begin to slip away into darkness. Yep, that about sums up my experience of watching Clive Barker's The Plague. Some time ago Dread Central alumnus Ryan Rotten took in a screening of this film along with a few other critics who were asked what could be done to "salvage this movie". Ryan replied, "Nothing". He wasn't kidding.
Finding your child unconscious and foaming at the mouth is no doubt a parent's worst nightmare. But what if it's not just your kid? What if it's every kid on the planet who is under nine years old, and what if they were all crippled by this unspeakable malady simultaneously? That is the type of plague in question here. Despite the best efforts of doctors, scientists, and governments, no one can find a reason, much less a cure, for this mysterious disease. The world is left to watch helplessly in horror as all of its young lay in a comatose state waiting for their only activity: synchronized daily seizures. Suffice it to say that the kids are not all right.
Fast forward ten years. The brats are still in a coma, and we come to meet newly paroled Tom Russell (Van Der Beek). Tom's got nowhere else to go so he heads home to hopefully restart the life he once knew with his family. Of course his reception is lukewarm at best, but they hesitantly accept him. After all, with the end of the world on the plate, who has time to worry about an ex-con? Tom finds himself in a strange new world. It's illegal to have children because they too are born into comas, the plague shows no signs of veering from its path of rage, and as a result the human race is facing extinction. Then just as quickly as it all started, things take a turn for the worse -- the kids wake up.
Call me crazy, but I would have been pretty content enjoying the quiet. One can dream.
Anyway, the newly awakened teens are up, about, and couldn't give the slightest shit about puberty or pop culture. They want blood, and before you can say "He who walks behind the rows," they start offing the adults left and right. That's the set-up, and honestly it's derivative but still pretty interesting.
So what went wrong? A whole lot. For a while we were chugging along with sort of a different type of zombie movie. The rampaging adolescents are now all serving some kind of unknown collective consciousness, meaning that every time one of them learns something, they all do. As a whole they are calm, cool, collected, and bloodthirsty. They use weapons like guns and clubs and seem to even be able to absorb a person's mind and soul when in arm's length proximity. I was really digging it until the third act reared its dull and ugly head. Remember back in the day when evil could just be evil and we didn't always need an explanation to wrap circumstances up in a pretty bow? The Plague tries to do that in the most ambiguous of ways. I only sort of knew what had happened by the film's end. From what I gather the coma-kids learned to love, and within the blink of an eye The Plague went from a creepy little flick to a heartwarming Lifetime original film. The only thing missing was Lenny Kravitz (damn your fertile loins, Roxie Roker) prancing around my living room with his feathered boa while singing "Let Love Rule".
Why?! How could this happen! Somebody please explain it to me?! Was I missing something? Some nugget of wisdom that could make this okay perhaps?
I sought answers in the special features. Immediately I went to the cast and crew commentary. Know what they talked about? Not the events in the film! I mean, why do that, right? Instead we get to hear all about what a wonderful job they all had done. "Wow, that's a great shot"! "Man, that is some performance you turned in! You really made that scene work." My blood pressure slowly began to rise. Joy. Then I headed on over to the only other supplement on the disc, the deleted scenes. With the exception of one cool excised kill, there was nothing of any value here either. In fact, these scenes did nothing but infuriate me further. Too bad there wasn't commentary for them as well. I was dying for another fifteen minutes of self-serving masturbatory bullshit. Reality set it. This movie sucked.
It's always sad to see a film collapse in on itself with one of our favorite genre stars attached to it. Clive Barker may have in some way produced this mess and lent his name to it, but rest assured there's nothing Barker-esque about it. All that's here is a giant missed opportunity which -- pardon the really bad, yet fitting pun -- you should avoid like the plague.
Cast and crew commentary
2 out of 5