Monday, July 13, 2009

David Gregory's Plague Town (2008)

A dysfunctional family that is very normal in its familiarity. They're on vacation, which is really nowadays a job, and it becomes more stressful than a job. The father, Jerry, has brought along his new girlfriend, Annette, and Jerry's daughters, Molly and Jessica, aren't really taking a liking to her. These Americans are in Europe, where Jessica, three days previously, has met a new British beau, Robin, and has decided to bring him along. As the five disembark the local bus unto a lush, expansive, and green field, shining brightly on a beautiful day, the circumstances are going to become more stressful than any could ever imagine. A family that needs to unite, unable to do so because they've literally been too close to each other, is going to be torn apart by another desperate family, hiding in the outskirts, amongst the woods, waiting for nighttime.
Fourteen years prior in a flashback sequence in David Gregory's Plague Town(2008), a priest enters as an unlikely visitor to a birthing. Not to deliver a blessing, the priest arrives for a killing, but the young mother, in a powerful image, wraps a sash around her legs to prevent the child birth. The children of this village are unwelcome visitors, because they are akin to a plague. The child is born, but the new father kills the priest. The child lives. During the present time, amongst the fields where the American family is walking, the sounds of a child whispering come from the camera's p.o.v., as young Molly is sneaking a smoke. She spies an old man digging a hole. The five approach the stranger, who says they must stay the night and also inappropriately touches the cheek of young Molly. The five stop for lunch in a barn where they fail to discover the rotting corpse behind a haystack. Night falls. Having found not a lick of civilization, the five stumble upon a car, unlocked and abandoned. They take shelter, and Robin, in a bit of chivalry, decides to brave the cold night with his flashlight and go look for better lodging. Jessica defies her old man's wishes and follows. The two encounter a freakish-looking older chap standing by a tractor. The freaky dude offers shelter: "better come with me, sweetheart," he says to Jessica, "I hate to see you go to waste." He pulls a rifle and shoots Robin in the neck. Jessica runs. Perhaps, the whispering child and her friends have found the remaining three at the car? Who's David Gregory? An essential person to the current DVD world, to say the least, and Plague Town, with its story of Americans in Europe, is a mix of American storytelling combined with European atmosphere. Plague Town adopts the tried-and-true (and maybe tired) formula of "whoops, we should've stayed at home": the outsider encounter with the violent locals. The locals of Plague Town are children, and the rendering of these antagonists is where Gregory delivers. The children are demonic-looking and savage; their behavior is playful like children but imbued, even the most innocuous movements, with a chilling, sinister intensity; and they're cold-blooded killers. For example, during one scene, a character happens upon a small house with a dim light visible through the window. Inside, two girls are spied by the viewer through the window. A young girl is brushing the hair of another whose mirror image looks like Linda Blair at the height of her possession in William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973). The two scatter when the character enters the house. Donning theatre masks with hooked noses, the two children dance in and out of the dim light into the shadows. Each appears from the shadows holding separate ends of a large sharp wire and each continues dancing around their victim. They stop abruptly after the wire is encircled around the victim's head, and with a quick pull, off goes to the top. The European atmosphere of Plague Town overshadows the tired American formulaic storytelling. Gregory channels some of the more poetic imagery evocative of its masters, such as Jean Rollin and Jess Franco. The character of Rosemary is an older child, pale and blind, whose eye sockets are filled with glass ones. They are literally soulless eyes and she moves not at the direction of her hands feeling her way or at the direction of anyone's voice but some other unknown sense. She is simultaneously sickening and compelling at first glance. Her appearance in the film is a highlight.Finally, the first third of Plague Town adeptly sets up the action of the second and third acts, taking time to introduce the characters and build up the suspense with foreshadowing and menace. This family is extremely familiar and likable in their familiarity. When night falls, Plague Town shines, and I was entertained and engaged for its running time. A hybrid of old-school American horror combined with European atmospheric dread, Plague Town should appeal to fans of both styles.


Mr.LargePackage said...

This film sounds like every family vacation I have ever had and that is large and in charge.

Aaron said...

Sounds cool. I've heard good things about Plague Town elsewhere too.

Hans A. said...

Mr. LP--take comfort that you are a survivor. I know that you play a mean game of Muay Thai Basketball. Who'da thunk those skills would've been essential on vacation?

Aaron, it's another little one that has slipped through the cracks. I hope you check it out and definitely write a review.

Again, thnx so much fellas, for reading and commenting.