Plague Town (2008)
By: Julian on August 11, 2010  | 
DVD
Accent | All Regions, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 85 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: David Gregory
Starring: David Lombard, Lindsay Goranson, James Warke, Josslyn DeCrosta, Erica Rhodes, Kate Aspinwall.
Screenplay: David Gregory, John Cregan.
Country: USA
External Links
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David Gregory is best known (perhaps that should be unknown) for directing a prodigious volume of featurettes for horror and exploitation films, and Plague Town is his first bash at his own genre feature. There are flaws to the film: we're completely indifferent to the set of insipid characters screenwriters Gregory and John Cregan have put on display, and the plot and villains are highly derivative, but this remains a slick, violent, suspenseful bread-and-butter horror flick that's barrels of fun.

A prologue shows an attempt by a murderous priest to foil a mysterious home birth fail. Fast forward 14 years to the present and to our unlikeable and shallow protagonists, a brash American family holidaying in Ireland. Jerry Monohan's (David Lombard) two spoiled daughters Jessica and Erica bicker constantly, leaving the rest of the party, Jerry's bride-to-be Annette (Lindsay Goranson) and Jessica's local boyfriend Robin (James Warke), exceedingly uncomfortable. Bussed out into the countryside (the sort of place where all of the residents were cast members in The Hills Have Eyes), the family meet a sexually repressed weirdo before unwisely missing their ride back home. They come across an abandoned car, still packed with luggage, and the girls take refuge in it while Jerry and Robin try and find help. They don't, instead gaining the attention of the mutant children of a psychotic family.

The backwoods horror film has been done before and done again, but the subgenre is a particular favourite of mine. Of course, there's nothing new here, with Gregory and Cregan (two of the founders of ace DVD distributors Severin) assembling a pastiche of devices used in films old (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes) and new (Wrong Turn, Frontiere(s)). The pubescent villains are Children of the Cornesque brats whose crimes escalate from whipping their victims with twigs to bashing their brains in with tyre hubcaps. No corn impalings but pretty close to it, and the matriarch is a lift from any psycho hillbilly family flick you care to name.

The protagonists are also remarkably one-dimensional, but it would be unfair to chastise Plague Town on these grounds: indeed, rarely in these sorts of films are our heroes presented with any meat on their bones. It's a pity that they're also unlikeable, because we especially don't care when they're systematically butchered; Gregory and Cregan are actively having us root for the antagonists, particularly when Jessica and Erica near their fates. The performers aren't much chop either, but more forgiving viewers might be willing to consider the clunky dialogue between the family members as a product of the characters' incompatibility.

With that said, Plague Town is an immensely enjoyable film. Those whose tolerance of the backwoods subgenre has frayed with the glut of imitators might be a little less accepting, but in terms of suspense and nifty gore effects, and as a mean-spirited, punchy horror vehicle, Plague Town has a great deal of merit. Viewed in terms of its budget Plague Town is also a highly technically impressive picture, its slick look augmented by Brian Hubbard's top quality cinematography of the eerily deserted surrounds and the producers' deft exploitation of their lean budget. It has its faults, and Gregory and Cregan can be exonerated for some of the lacklustre elements in their debut feature, but Plague Town is a far sight better than most of the independent and studio horror films on the new release shelves at the moment.
Video
Shot on 16mm film stock this was never going to look like a Holywood blockbuster, but the crisp, slightly grainy 1.78:1 transfer ads a 70s touch to Plague Town's visual presentation.
Audio
No complaints - a very competently mixed soundtrack presented in English Dolby 5.1. Mark Raskin, a muso Gregory imported from the horror making-of doco business, does a good job with the score.
Extra Features
Two featurettes, including a making-of, an audio commentary by Gregory and a theatrical trailer. Accent Underground's respectful releases of genre material are examples that DVD distributors should pay heed to.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Plague Town's strengths reside in its technical quality: it is shot well, the sound design is excellent and it showcases some very cool effects. The deficiencies in plotting are (mainly) forgivable, but my predilection towards some films might skew the balance slightly in Plague Town's favour. Either way, it's likely that David Gregory and screenwriter John Cregan will be forces to watch in the horror genre in the near future.

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