Monday, May 18, 2009

Plague Town (2009)

You don’t have to convince me that kids are creepy. I’ve loathed the little buggers ever since I took a job as a babysitter over the course of a summer while I was a teen. The little Spawns of Satan (as I liked to call them) ran me ragged, throwing tantrums, locking me out of the house, torturing me with Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys and generally being little monsters. So, I am always eager to watch evil kid movies, just to see how unpleasant children can be.

Enter Plague Town…14 years ago in a small Irish village something unmentionable was born. So evil was it that the priest was called to kill it, but its parents had different plans. In the present day, a dysfunctional American family is visiting the Irish countryside to try to bond with each other. The father, Jerry (David Lombard), has brought along his fiancee Annette (Lindsay Goranson) to try and bond with his two girls, the gothy Molly (Josslyn DeCrusta) and blond bitch Jessica (Erica Rhodes). Jessica took a fancy to an Englishman named Robin (James Warke), so he too has come along for this family adventure, much to the chagrin of the rest of the family. In between bickering with each other, the family manages to miss the last bus back into town and find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere with nightfall quickly approaching.

Walking down the road they find an abandoned car, complete with unperturbed luggage, on the side of the road. While Robin and Jessica walk to find help, the remaining three decide to wait in the car. When Robin and Jessica fail to return, the father sets out to find some help. Soon, they all discover that malformed, sadistic kids roam the woods and they aren’t too happy with the outsiders invading their turf.

Supposedly Plague Town was based upon one scene writers David Gregory (who also directed) and John Cregan came up with. This just happens to be THE creepiest and strongest scene in the entire film and involves the character of Rosemary (Kate Aspinwall), the matriarch of the deformed children who has glassy doll eyes in place of her peepers (just take a look at the poster). It’s unfortunate that this is the only scene in the entire film that is effective, because it shows just what tremendous potential this film had. Any potential this film showed is quickly lost in the hackneyed script, undeveloped story and bad acting.

The biggest problem was with the script. The story just felt undeveloped and a bit generic. Not enough was done by Gregory and Cregan to make it a memorable story and I lost interest very quickly. There just wasn’t enough to hold the weak story together and it definitely could have used more development. Plague Town just didn’t have enough material to justify making it a feature-length film and because of that it felt like most scenes were used as padding instead of being used to move the story along. I really would have liked to see more time spent on the deformed kids and the little village they came from.

The killer kids were the most interesting characters in the film, but instead of spending time on their backstory we have to watch the American family bickering between each other. Right off the bat the characters of the family are annoying, especially Jessica. There’s also a certain amount of awkwardness about the characters that doesn’t lend credibility that they are a family. The dialogue feels forced and a bit off…not like a family but rather like a group of strangers who are forced to communicate (but perhaps that was the point).

The characters may have been written badly, but the actors don’t do much to commend their performances either. Some disappear into the background of the film altogether, like Lombard (Jerry, the father) and Goranson (Annette, the father’s fiancee), while others just grate on your nerves, like Rhodes (Jessica). The only two actors who did a decent job were DeCrosta as Molly and Warke as Robin. Warke’s encounters with the evil children are especially memorable, especially when he survives a face-disfiguring shotgun blast and has a creepy meeting with Rosemary.

As for the scares, except for the creepy first encounter with Rosemary, Plague Town continued to disappoint. There are some pretty laughable scenes with the kids hitting people with tree branches, someone getting beat to death with a hubcap and little kids running through the mist. However, I really did like the creepy looks of the children, from the masks they wore (think Michael Myers’ white mask) to their pale, demon-like faces. I also enjoyed the only memorable kill scene of the film where someone is “scalped” by a taut piano wire. With only these two instances to commend the film, though, I find it hard-pressed to recommend Plague Town.

Plague Town tends to drag on and on, like the filmmakers needed to add more to the story to make it feel more complete. What needed to be done was focus more on the horrific mutant children and show more scenes with the nightmare-inducing Rosemary. By the third act, I was barely keeping my eyes open and the inclusion of the villagers really felt tacked on.

I went into Plague Town (despite the misleading title) to be spooked by creepy kids raising hell, but instead I was disappointed by lack of cohesive story, bad acting, poor pacing and only a few scares. Plus, I think the kids I babysat for in high school could whip these mutant kids’ asses.

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