September 10, 2006

Population 436 (2006)

There are some films that promise so much in their trailers that you are really looking forward to seeing them. Then, when you do see them, you realise that everything you saw in the trailer was pretty much the entire film. "Population 436" is exactly one of those.

Steve Kady (Jeremy Sisto) is a census-taker who goes to the small town of Rockwell Falls to investigate how they have managed to maintain the same population (of 436) for over 100 years. When he discovers that the overly religious population are a lot more sinister than they first appear, he tries to escape and finds that it isn't that easy.

In a nutshell, this is a lot like Dean Koontz's "Black River" from five years ago. But a few added homages to the infamous Twilight Zone story "The Lottery" (based on the short story by Shirley Jackson), plus bits from "The Wicker Man" and "The Stepford Wives", all make this more of a mish-mash of better ideas than the story can really cope with. The detrimental effect is that more questions arise out of a simple plot than there needs to be and it just leaves too many holes.

For instance, if this thing is all about God controlling the population of a village, what is the purpose? Why should people be murdered or hang themselves if God can just wipe out who he wants anyway? And if they want to maintain the same population, why do the people encourage strangers to come there in the first place? I just didn't get it. Did I just spoil the mystery for you? Probably... but it's nothing that you won't work out after the first 5 minutes of the film anyway!

The acting is ok but not brilliant. It's a lot of stereotypes as usual, most of which are tedious beyond belief. There is, of course, a pretty girl but I've seen better... no, really I have!

It is also all very slow. Sometimes that works if you are actually enjoying the movie or the actors but neither is the case here. It just dragged and dragged even though the ending was so predictable that the whole thing could quite easily have been wrapped up in a half-hour tv episode instead. In fact, it is so much like a "made for tv" movie that I'm surprised that it even got a dvd release. This is more than typical "Sci-Fi Channel" fodder.

I'd like to give it 3 out of 10 for trying to be different but it just wasn't very. I didn't like the main character, didn't feel any empathy or sympathy with him (or anyone else for that matter), and so it was a completely uninvolving experience for me.

Unless you like crappy films like "The Village" this really isn't for you. It's not even gory or scary either. I think it claims to be a horror film but I'd call it sci-fi or fantasy. Unfortunately, when it comes to "fantasy", I need something a bit more imaginative.

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