Thursday, November 16, 2006

Population 436 (2006)

The idyllic town of Rockwell Falls is a place you wouldn't want to leave - the townsfolk are friendly and welcoming, the countryside is lush and verdant, there is never any crime and, of course, their apple pies are scrumptious! If you'd want to leave, you must be crazy!

Which is what the townspeople believe...they lobotomize anyone who decides to leave the town, thinking they must be crazy to leave! They call this "the fever," and characterize it by a certain look in someone's eye. If someone is suspected of having the fever, they are hauled off to be "treated" at Doctor Greaver's. If anyone does escape, they are killed, not by the townsfolk, but by "divine intervention."

The population stays at 436, and has for the last hundred years. Steve Kady (super sexy Jeremy Sisto) with the U.S. Census Bureau is sent on assignment to investigate the town and it's odd population. He arrives outside of Rockwell with some car trouble, but Deputy Bobbie (Fred Durst! I didn't even recognize him until I saw his name in the end credits!!) gives him a ride into town. News of the newcomer travels fast, and soon Kady is the talk of the town. While his car is in the shop, he begins investigating the population of the town and interviewing people for the census. He can't seem to find one particular family and no one wants to give him a straight answer. As the town prepares for a big festival, Kady uncovers more and more of the truth, as he simultaneously grows closer to Deputy Bobbie and the woman Bobbie plans to marry, Courtney. Can Kady find out the truth before he too is struck with "the fever" and treated by Doctor Greaver? Is it already too late for him to leave?

Watching this movie I was immediately reminded of the Shirley Jackson short story "The Lottery," as well as the films The Wicker Man (minus the nude musical numbers) and 2001 Maniacs (minus the blood, sex and the hilarious Robert Englund). It was an effective thriller, but I wish the story had been a bit more developed. I think, like Sisto's character Kady, that we should have been left in the dark about the town's beliefs. It would have been much more suspenseful if I hadn't figured out the townspeople were evil before the opening credits ran. Nonetheless, that plot point was never meant to be hidden from the audience (heck, the blurb on the DVD box says, "The residents of Rockwell Falls are dying for you to visit...").

The acting is great...Jeremy Sisto looks hot as usual, and puts on a wonderful performance as Kady. Fred Durst is the big surprise in all this - I loved his character of the conflicted Deputy and he did a really stellar job. Dude, quit your day job and pursue acting! The rest of the cast is well developed and enjoyable to watch as well.

The direction and cinematography are top notch. The film takes in all the gorgeous, I just wanted to jump right in and roll around in that green, green grass! The director, Michelle Maxwell MacLaren, definitely knows what she is doing and frames her shots with care and attention to detail.

Still, this movie didn't quite thrill me as much as I wanted to be thrilled. Believe me, I did enjoy watching Jeremy Sisto run around for an hour and a half, but it was just lacking something, even for being so well-made. I suppose I wanted something less predictable with a little more surprise to it.

Overall, a very well-done movie but unfortunately, unmemorable.

Check it out on Amazon!

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