Monday, September 13, 2010

[Review] Population 436

Sent out to take the census of the small farming community of Rockwell Falls, Steve Kady (Jeremy Sisto) gets more than he bargained for when his car tires get damaged, leaving him stranded in the town for longer than he had intended. At first, everything seems great; a little too perfect, in fact. Unlike the big city he hails from, Rockwell Falls is quiet and peaceful, devoid of crime and filled with warm, friendly people—including the town's deputy—who are all too happy to befriend him almost immediately. But once his job is underway, he discovers something rather odd; the town's population has always remained at the exact same total.

Rather than exploiting gore and nudity, Population 436 goes for a much more low-key approach and does a surprisingly decent job at it. The setting is well used and things are kept fairly intriguing for a while. First-time filmmaker Michelle Maxwell MacLaren certainly had the right intentions and a good vibe going, but unfortunately wasn't quite up to the task to make it work to its full potential.

Getting stranded with a strange little religious community out in the middle of nowhere is a great set-up for a horror movie, but obviously nothing we haven't seen countless times before. With such a strong resemblance to the basic themes of The Wicker Man and even The Stepford Wives, we're ultimately left with very little surprises or thrills. All of the characters and ideas presented in the film are so paper-thin that it was nearly impossible to feel any real connection or threat. Take for instance the character of Courtney (Charlotte Sullivan) who tries to warn Steve of the town. Her whole purpose in the story, it seems, is just to look beautiful and say ominous, vague things that accomplish absolutely nothing. How can we take the threat seriously when she's being so subtle about it? And considering how vague and useless her character is, it's obviously a little baffling when Steve ends up falling in love with her about fifteen minutes after meeting her.

The town itself, while certainly appearing to be out in the middle of nowhere, looked a bit too phony to me. Most of the residents were passable as small town folk, but some of them stuck out like sore thumbs. Did I mention the deputy is played by Limp Bizkit's frontman Fred Durst? How much belief can be put into a town, or a movie for that matter, where Fred Durst is a deputy? LOL @ the casting director.

Although Population 436 wasn't quite able to elevate itself above its b-movie status, it's certainly not a bad film, either. You'd be hard pressed to find much originality here and plenty of questions remain unanswered by the film's end, but as a fan of the classics (including the films that stood as inspirations), it was mostly an enjoyable experience with a decently built atmosphere and a few key moments that make it worth checking out.


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