Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gregory's PLAGUE TOWN: a Q&A at AFA. Find out how they made those fluids flow!

What a lovely way to spend an April evening! Relax, sit back -- and barf -- as Anthology Film Archives hosts the New York premiere this Wednesday, April 29 (at 7:30 and 9:30 pm) of a new "slasher" movie from MPI and Dark Sky Films entitled PLAGUE TOWN, directed and co-written (with John Cregan) by David Gregory.

What makes the evening special is that

after each screening, there will be an audience Q&A with Gregory, actors James Warke and Lindsay Goranson (others in the cast are promised, as well), so any questions that might arise as you watch this oh-so-tasteful can of carnage may be answered before you leave the theatre.

The slasher genre, like that of the zombie, is growing ever more needy of some resuscitation and reanimation, so any contributions along these lines are generally appreciated by TrustMovies -- who actually preferred Hostel: Part 2 to its predecessor and was a big fan of the original Saw, though I gave up on the series after its lame first sequel. Of late, Eden Lake has proven the best -- that is to say, the most difficult to watch, while being simultaneously the best-plotted, -written, -directed and -acted film in this genre for quite some time.

Slasher films cut such a wide berth -- some slash via the occult/supernatural, others are of the straight-up serial killer variety, while a few diddle with fantasy or sci-fi though most are content to simply stick a group of attractive young people in the lair of a Jason or a Michael Myers -- that comparisons are tricky. Mr. Gregory's movie is one that mixes fantasy and pseudo-science with its dismemberment and blood-letting, and so must be judged against others of that ilk, I suppose. In most ways the movie comes up, if not empty, rather far from full.

After an opening that looks a little like what Hammer Films used to do with its more contemporary horrors, the movie cuts to an argumentative family vacationing in Ireland. Though lost, they remain nasty and finally happen upon one of those "hidden" communities that only seem to exist in the minds of scare film afficionados. Slaughter ensues. The acting is passable -- better than that when the dialog allows (not often, unfortunately) -- and the filmmakers and production people certainly have done their homework where dark cinematography, creepy sets and scares are concerned. But everything here, from thought to budget to time spent, seems to have been lavished on little but the gross-out special effects -- which are, of course, the raison d'etre of the slasher genre.

Wow -- look at that guy's head suddenly severed horizontally. Another fellow is shot, then taken prisoner and then has his head repeatedly, almost joyously, punched in by various objects. The women fare no better. Some of the townspeople of this sick community do look very strange in an interesting manner, and this goes a certain distance in making the film bizarrely watchable. (The best scene in the movie details a very weird "date" between the aforementioned fellow and what looks like the community's prize "catch," shown above.) But as we pretty much know the explanation for what is going on from the very beginning (not to mention the tag line on the movie poster), there is not much suspense engendered. Nor do we ever come to care for the extended family and its tag-along friend.

The eminent film magazine Fangoria has called Plague Town "a nightmare captured on film," which I would not disagree with, though that phrase does cut two ways. Still, a slasher movie premiering at AFA makes an interesting change from that fine institution's recent retrospectives of Shirley Clarke and Thomas Imbach, so if you've a mind to visit, please do -- and ask a question or two for me.
(All photos are from Plague Town.)

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