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Plague Town (2008)
Dark Sky Films
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/12/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/17/2009
If movies have taught me anything, it's don't leave urban or suburban areas. While this idea has probably been around for decades, it was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which really brought it to light. If you live in the city and you venture to the country, bad things are going to happen to you. Everyone in the country is crazy and they love to kill city folk. There's no grey area here; it's very cut-and-dry. So, why haven't any characters in movies learned this lesson? I guess if they did, fledgling filmmakers couldn't crank out their own versions of this genre, such as the newly released Plague Town.
Plague Town opens with a set-piece which takes place 14 years ago. A pregnant woman is very reluctant to give birth, but a minister convinces her to proceed. The minister then tries to kill the baby and there's talk of a cycle being broken. The story then jumps ahead to the present. Jerry Monohan (David Lombard) is exploring the Irish countryside with his fiancee, Annette (Lindsay Goranson), and his two teenaged daughters, Molly (Josslyn DeCrosta) and Jessica (Erica Rhodes). Jessica has brought along Robin (James Warke), a lad whom she met in town. The group wanders through fields, arguing bitterly. Staying at each other's throats the whole day causes them to miss the last bus back to the city -- this despite the fact that they've already run into some odd characters and should have left much earlier. They walk until they find an abandoned and unlocked car. It's suggested that they spend the night in it. But, Robin wants to go look for help and Jessica follow him. Jerry then leaves to seek assistance as well, leaving Annette and Molly in the car. Soon, they will all learn that they've stumbled into a village which lives in the past and whose townspeople are trying to escape a terrible curse.
Plague Town has a promising opening, as the setting is the Irish countryside, and not the typical American south or southwest, as we commonly see in these films. The movie's prologue sets up some interesting questions like "Why do the people seem so primitive?" and "What's wrong with the baby?" and "What's 'the cycle' of which they speak?"
Unfortunately, any promise which Plague Town holds goes out the window very quickly. For starters, all of the characters are annoying. Why would a family which argues this much ever take a trans-Atlantic trip together? From the outset, they are fighting and insulting one another and the viewer is left to think, "Am I supposed to like them?" It's implied that Molly has a history of mental health issues, but we never learn what these are.
While the arguing family is annoying, at least when they are fighting there is something happening. Once night falls, Plague Town turns into what I call a "wandering movie". We are forced to sit and watch the characters wander around in the dark. They go from place to place either meeting their doom or encountering weird things and running away. This is one of those films where there is no sense of geography. It's implied (not only by the film's title) that they are in a village of some kind, but all that we see is a random house here or there. There is no real story to speak of and once the wandering starts, there is no more character development. The pacing is also quite slack. There are some scenes which should be suspenseful, but they are simply aren't due to the editing of the film.
I've read some online comments about Plague Town which all the movie "gory". My response to that is "I guess." Sure, some of the killings are bloody, but in a standard way and not in a Dead/Alive way. Now that's a gory movie! Speaking of the special effects makeup, I'm still not sure what's going on with Rosemary, who is featured prominently in the cover art. Is she blind or did someone shove ping-pong balls into her face?
Plague Town's biggest sin is that it never lets us know exactly what is happening. I'm sure that writer/director David Gregory would chalk this up to a sense of mystery, but I call it laziness. The ending lets us know a bit about what the locals are up to, but we never get the full story and the history of the area. Couple this with the fact that no one acts as if they have any common sense and the result is a movie which is over-edited, under-written and just plain boring.
Plague Town should be quarantined onBlu-ray Disc courtesy of Dark Sky Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only slight grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are good, most notably the green fields. Much of the movie takes place at night, but only a few shots are too dark to fully see the action. The level of detail is good, but the image is somewhat flat. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.1 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The first thing that you'll notice about this track is that the low-end is featured prominently in the mix. Nearly every scene provides some sound which triggers the sub-woofer. The stereo effects are good as well. They are nicely detailed and come into play during the scenes in the forest. On the negative side, the surround sound effects are quite modest, and never really come into play.
The Plague Town Blu-ray Disc sports a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY which features Director David Gregory and Producer Derek Curl. "A Visit to Plague Town" (29 minutes) is a making-of featurette which features comments from the director, producer, and the cast, among others. The piece looks at how the project came together, and it then begins to explore the film's production. Through interviews and on-set footage, we see how the movie was made and how the low budget was overcome. There's also an examination of the make up effects. "The Sounds of Plague Town" (16 minutes) features composer Mark Raskin and we learn that he and Director David Gregory have worked together for years. We see him at work and he discusses how audio is used in the film. The Disc contains Gregory's 1995 film "Scathed" (41 minutes), which is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The final extra is the trailer for Plague Town.
Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long