Plague Town (2009)
Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Josslyn DeCrosta, Erica Rhodes, David Lombard, Lindsay Goranson, James Warke
Directed by David Gregory
I was really looking forward to Plague Town, the first feature from David Gregory, who is primarily known for his work on special features for various collector’s edition DVD sets, including Dark Sky Films’ release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So when I was informed it was playing as part of this year’s Boston Underground Film Festival (which makes sense, as it was shot in Connecticut), I was glad to get the chance to see it on the big screen.
Sadly, I have to say I was ultimately disappointed by the results. The story follows a family, the patriarch of which, Jerry (Lombard), is trying to trace his roots in Ireland as well as integrate his new girlfriend into the family unit. The former quest leads him, his girlfriend, his two daughters, and a newly acquired boyfriend to the middle of nowhere, quite literally; the latter quest has just left everyone bickering. Even though Jerry is sure his ancestors’ home is nearby, all they find are field after empty field and more reasons to snap at one another.
Erica Rhodes is Jessica, the petulant teenager who wants nothing to do with her father’s attempt to bring their family closer together. To prove this, she picked up a guy while they were in England (Warke) to keep her company, something her father reluctantly agreed to in order to keep peace. When the two go off together, though, they find out just why this little slice of Nowheresville, Ireland is so deserted: There be some crazy folk out here.
You see, about 14 years ago a local village was having a problem with its babies; namely they were all born with some deformity and never were able to grow up right. The bloodline was tainted, it seemed, so the town priest took it upon himself to deliver the babies from their future evil ways fresh from the womb. Eventually, one of the new fathers decided that the villagers could fix the bloodline without infanticide, so he dispatches said priest in a most un-Christian like way. Now this village is full of twisted, demented children whose idea of fun is murder and torture. Can this dysfunctional family pull together in time to save themselves before it’s too late?
Part of the problem with Plague Town, I think, can be chalked up to inexperience. The director was not used to working on such a scale, the actors hadn’t done much before landing this gig, even the special effects crew were pretty wet behind the ears. The whole package put together is full of all the inherent issues of almost any first-time feature: slow pacing, low-scale effects, bad lighting, questionable dialogue and characters you just can’t bring yourself to like too much, no matter how much peril they may be in.
Not that it’s a wash from front to back; there are some good kills to be had throughout, and once the titular town actually comes into play, which isn’t until at least halfway through the film if not longer, the pace picks up nicely. The problem was by that point I had lost the ability to really care about what was going on, who was in trouble or why all this was happening in the first place.
Hopefully Gregory will learn from this experience and take that knowledge into his next feature. He’s got a genuine love for the genre, and you can tell he was trying with his limited resources and experience to make a film that relied more on atmosphere than gory kills. He just missed the mark a few too many times for my liking.
2 1/2 out of 5
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