Though Cthulhu will forever be brought to mind when the name of Lovecraft is conjured up, it is a shame that people forget that his monster was often some small, out of way forgotten town as anything. Not only is Innsmouth more visible in the story that shares its name (as opposed to the aforementioned mister squid face) but it tends to be creepier. "New" horror is filled full of this paranoia of small, forgotten places. I am no expert, but it is possible a descendent of Washington Irving, whose two most famous tales - "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle" - are essentially about how the rules of everyday life break down in small towns that play by their own rules and are filled with their own ghosts. Likewise, Irving was probably tapping into the German and central European fairy tale, where (again) small towns were the focus of those old world magics that are driven out by banality of larger cities that grew up from the late seventeenth century.
But while the old fairy tales were moral lessons to not leave your small abode, and the Irving stories have the feel of an almost comic "wouldn't that be crazy?"; this change around the turn of the 20th century and throughout horror ever since is clear: bad things grow in unwatched/unwashed pots. While Deliverance is more about mankind's fighting against nature and his own fears; the audience is ultimately left with a sense of dread of "down the road" sort of places. Being Southern, we have three types of ghost stories. Some guy was hanged on a bridge. Some woman was a jilted lover. And some place went wrong. It seems like only this last type has any real immediacy in this day in age, where if you are from a big town then you are not comfortable with the small town "charm", and if you are from a small town, you might not like places so foreign as to be a few miles down the road. Competition, as it were. It feeds both sides.
Now, this is all an introduction probably too long for a movie like Population/436, who is too obvious from the start to have a plot-twist, too over-the-top when it needs to be subtle, too telegraphed to even require showing the ending (see the last two points), and marked with a "R" rating because of a fifteen second sex scene that shows about as much as a romance book cover. This is not to say the movie is bad. When you are horror, it is almost always about style and creep more than acting and scripting; but this movie could have used a good deal of polish.
Man comes to town. Fred Durst is in this town. It's just one of those days.
Five bucks says you can figure out just about everything else based on what you know about A) horror movies, B) horror movies set in small towns, C) why horror movies would put the word "population" in the title (see "B" especially).
Knowing what is going to happen probably fifteen minutes before the movie starts, this means you are going to be in this one for the ride. And the ride, as hinted above, is a little like an Eli Roth movie without quite the spirit of 1970's horror fun, but you probably will get a few good scares out of it. Or well, a few good creeps. Scares only happen about once in this movie, and its a cheap one. Everything else is just a series of images about why, in fact, small town America is a wee bit creepy. This sort of horror movie ultimately makes you feel that they are some Blue State paranoia against the Red state voting block. Things that scare Hollywood and its Canadian counterparts, I mean.
I suppose I could say something specific about this movie, but do not think I will. Well, not much. The two male leads work well together, one being a man trying to be a little sane no matter what and one trying to be not quite so much insane as country weird. Most of the "town elders" are perfectly fatherly and odd. The "romantic" interest has nice side boob, and her back was attractive, though something about her acting was a little too "soft". The children could probably had been done without. The sets were good "out of times", but are filled with little plotholes about how such things would have been built considering certain policies.
I guess, ultimately, this movie is like the "potholes" that blow out tires (see what I did there). You could go back and check to see if there was nails, but you won't. You could even wonder at what you were doing in a movie that is somewhere between about five dozen other horror movies (with a little bit in Children of the Corn and a lot-tle bit in Wrong Turn). But you are sort of stuck through. For me, it was sort of a puzzle to see if really was that obvious and it was those little shots of hope that it might not be. It kept pretending like it was going to be something else.
Then you get to the ending (either one) and you feel a little robbed. You realize the last half of the movie has been something like masturbation. If X was going to happen, then why the crap Y? WHY? And why tease me with Z, when it was just going to be A? And why set up C all over the place, when you stuck with plan B after all. Sigh.
This one is a rental. Both the movie and the review of the movie. That's all I got to say.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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