Sony // 2006 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 5th, 2006
And the children shall lead them...
This Clive Barker-produced cross between Dawn of the Dead and Village of the Damned pits Dawson castaway James Van Der Beek against a legion of pale, zombie teenage killers.
Van Der Beek plays Tom Russel, a newly released convict, who journeys home to reconnect with his estranged wife, Jean (Ivana Milicevic). While he was languishing in prison, though, some crazy crap went down in the outside world. Ten years ago, all the children in the world succumbed to a mysterious coma, the source of which no one was able to pinpoint. When Tom saunters into his nephew's house these years later, the kids are still incommunicado, and his own nephew is one of the brain-dead.
Scientists and doctors have long given up trying to determine what's going on and settle just on keeping the kids alive through IV's. Tom's arrival, however, is accompanied by a major development, as all the kids suddenly snap out of their stupor and start killing people. What has turned them into bloodthirsty zombie adolescents? Your guess is as good as mine.
The Plague is an inscrutable movie that starts out strong, but loses forward momentum, eventually grinding to an awkward halt. It's a shame, too, because for a while there, I was really into this thing.
I dug the whole concept of the kids weirdly dipping into drool-lathered comas, in which they dwelled for a long time. It had that nice apocalyptic feel to it. Ironically, when they came to and started their blood-soaked marauding, the coolness factor subsided. I presume this violent resurrection happened worldwide, but the only hint we get of widespread chaos is a blackout screen on the television. We're pretty much limited to what's happening in the immediate sphere where our main characters dwell, and since that encompasses a school, a church and a road, the epic, end-of-the-world feel vanishes.
The focused mayhem starts out very promising, though. It takes about 25 minutes or so until we get to the zombies running wild, and the enigmatic, alternate-reality nature of the coma-kids is infused with enough suspense to keep what could have been a slow opening, moving along nicely.
So, once all hell breaks loose, there's a pile of jump scenes, a few "after-the-action" corpse shots, and a lot of off-screen screaming and -- I guess -- dying. The Plague is fairly blood-free, or at least gushing-blood-free. We see plenty of dead bodies coated in the red stuff, but don't plan on catching any glimpses of on-screen gore-soaked mayhem. This isn't that kind of film. Usually, the poor sap who's about to get his comeuppance is dragged somewhere out of shot, kicking, screaming, and generally acting like a big baby.
What the filmmakers are after here is more of the psychological screw-job horror film. They want to scare the heck out of you by throwing intense, unnerving sequences at you that don't really add up. The Plague is confusing, and even now I'm not entirely sure what the secret decoder message is to the plot. There's some Biblical stuff in there, and I think The Grapes of Wrath plays an important role in deciphering what the film is about, but I couldn't tell you spoilers even if I wanted to. The complex narrative, as irritating as it could be, isn't what porked the film for me. Ultimately, it was the pacing, which just started dragging something fierce in the final third. The exposition that unfolded was both vague and cumbersome -- not a good combination. There were a few on-paper chilling moments, including a murder-suicide and a showdown at a barricade, but the energy had been sucked out by then.
The Plague looks decent enough, with the disc offering up both full frame and 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen versions. The transfer isn't flawless, though, and grain nags in some places. The 5.1 sound mix is aggressive, though. Some deleted scenes and an editor's commentary, where, to no avail, the plot is explained, are the extras.
The Plague certainly isn't bloody like a Clive Barker horror movie, and while there are a few good scares (the coordinated awakening of the children and that woman with broken jaw stand out), the film feels sluggish and unsatisfying.
Return now to the coma.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Cast and Editor Commentary
* Deleted Scenes