Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Halloween Horror Movie Challenge Oct 3rd: PLAGUE TOWN

D. David Gregory
Dark Sky Films/ Severin Films
1.85 - 35mm 

This debut feature film From David Gregory who is most known for his extraordinary work in the DVD world on extras for BLUE UNDERGROUND, and who went on to form his own company with SEVERIN. He also for many years fought the good fight against censorship in the UK with his older label EXPLOITED back in the 90's and he produced several amazing documentaries the British horror scene. So this film is something of major interest for those of us who have followed his career on the side-lines of the industry.

PLAGUE TOWN is an odd beast, a gothic fairy tale cum splatter film with a definite British horror vibe throughout. A film that begins with the family lost in the tough wilderness of such classics like THE HILLS HAVE EYES but becomes something much different as it progresses. A much weirder, more mercurial beast altogether that is hard to compare to much else out there.

The story begins with a wicked scene of a baby being born in a distant cabin and the local Priest pronouncing the unseen child an unholy abomination of the Devil. The Parents of he child wisely decide this is not what they are wanting to hear. Apparently the local church has been doing this around town for some time and the parents decide to take matters into their own hands in a scene of vicious brutality that sets a tone for the film that seems like it will be hard to match. The movie matches it.

Fourteen years later an American family and one European interloper are running around this same bit of countryside taking a vacation. They decide to hike through the ruins in an attempt to find some family time but end up running afoul of the incestuous brood that has come from the family that was allowed to live in the opening scene. Seems that they have for years been trying to have more kids by finding more people to breed with to attempt to cleanse the gene pool with no real results.

The film becomes a nightmare of every fairy tale you can think of in the second half as the mutant inbred children take center stage in the hunting and torment of the cast. The film plays on the rarely used primal fear of deformed children, but it also taps that fairy tale nastiness. Few movies attempt to do it, but even fewer do it well.

The design work in the film is the final element that makes it all work. The make up on the children, and especially the make up on Rosemary the teenage girl who was born in the opening scene are all top notch. Add to it the costumes and set designs that are more subtle than you would expect and it adds up to an amazingly well thought out and designed final film.

Some viewers may find the very European pace and atmosphere to be off putting, and occasionally the unlikable lead characters make it hard to find someone to cheer for, and add to that they now typical nihilistic horror ending and the film is far from perfect. But there is so much interesting, imaginative and breathtaking moments in the film that it cannot be forgotten or ignored.

Review © Andrew Copp

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