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DVD Review: Plague Town

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Every week, there seems to be a new “horror” movie on the video store shelves (and by “horror,” kids, I mean that torture porn crap you‘re all into). That’s all anyone cares about apparently: insanely stupid middle-aged teens being tortured to death and beyond by some unstoppable force. For no rhyme or reason (other than cash). Forget the concept of psychological horror. No, we can’t have our audiences thinking, even for a moment — just dispense with the blood already!

And then there’s Plague Town. It’s bloody, people are tortured and killed, and the moral of the story seems to be lost in the woods somewhere. The budget? Low. But, while the other modern cinematic attempts at injecting fresh blood into the genre fail to even so much as amuse me, Plague Town managed to pass my sometimes harsh system of critiquing by just being entertaining alone. The story takes the familiar formula of family-on-trip-meets-disaster and handles it with a great deal of care and mucho gusto to boot.

Meet the Monohan Trio: Molly (Josslyn DeCrosta), her older sister Jessica (Erica Rhodes), and their pops Dr. Jerry (David Lombard). These three Americans are off roaming about the boonies of a godforsaken countryside (or, Ireland if you prefer) with Jerry’s  bride-to-be, Annette (Lindsay Goranson) and Erica’s latest fling, British-born Robin (James Warke). Due to their inability to distinguish one section of Ireland from another, these five folks wind up missing the only bus back to civilization and are soon in for the worst (and in some cases, last) night of their lives as they unwittingly stumble upon the crazed, murderous young 'uns of a secluded nearby village.

Years ago, a local priest sought to rid the entire village of an undefined disease that plagued all newborn children. When that failed to work, the locals just figured “What the hell!” and decided the only way to rid themselves of the curse was to breed the bad blood out of their lineage. And kidnapping roaming outsiders ripe with fresh young seed seemed like a good idea. But it’s doubtful the five horrified visitors will agree.

Co-produced and distributed by Dark Sky Films, one of the most charming elements about Plague Town is that co-writer/director David Gregory is a big fan of the “older” horror films (and by “old,” kids, I mean movies made around or before the time I was born — grrr). He has made several dozen mini-documentaries about various exploitation filmmakers (and collaborators) for other genre video labels like Blue Underground and Severin Films. Watching Plague Town, it is very obvious that Gregory has embellished his love of said “old” horror films into this one.

He even shot it on film. Real film. 16mm to be precise. You know, the stuff with stock. The non-video kind. And it’s fairly evident in the film’s 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer as there‘s a lot of grain in the film‘s nighttime scenes (I should probably mention that most of the movie takes place at night). But, the presence of a bit of grain hardly warrants a strike against it when you look at the flip side of the coin and say “Hey, at least it’s not shot-on-video like all those damn torture porn flicks! YAY!” At least, that’s the way I look at it. Accompanying the film’s beautiful (if grainy) video presentation is a rather nicely done 5.1 English Dolby Digital soundtrack. Like many 5.1 tracks I tend to hear these days, this one doesn’t seem to make full use of those rear speakers, but I’m not complaining. Three subtitle options are included: English, Spanish, and French.

Dark Sky Films has given us a handful of special features on this release. First off is an audio commentary with David Gregory and producer Derek Curl. It’s an entertaining commentary, with the two discussing the film from its origin to release, managing to tell Bob Geldof to fuck off in the process (for reasons you may learn on your own — although Geldof’s participation would have really made the movie for me). Next up on the bonus roster are the featurettes “A Visit To Plague Town” and “The Sounds Of Plague Town.” A trailer concludes the bonus material. [Note: the Blu-ray release of the film includes an additional extra, Gregory’s 40min student film, Scathed]

If you’re in the mood for something that actually delivers a few thrills, good news: Plague Town is now available.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.