• Plague Town (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: November 27th, 2020.
    Director: David Gregory
    Cast: Josslyn DeCrosta, Erica Rhodes, James Warke, Lindsay Goranson, David Lombard, Kate Aspinwall
    Year: 2008
    Purchase From Severin Films

    Plague Town – Movie Review:

    David Gregory’s name is one that should be familiar to all serious genre film enthusiasts. Through his work at Anchor Bay Entertainment, Blue Underground, Severin Films, Dark Sky Films and others he’s given us such classic documentaries as The Wicker Man Enigma, The Joe Spinell Story, and the excellent The Godfathers Of Mondo feature length expose that accompanied BU’s sterling Mondo Cane collection. He’s helped bring Black Emmanuelle back to us and more recently unleashed The Sinful Dwarf on an undeserving populace and he’s indelibly left his mark on the collective populace of movie geekdom. In short, the man does really good work, and thankfully that adjective applies not only to his documentary work, but to his feature film debut, Plague Town, as well.

    The movie is centered around a small Irish village where a family of visiting American tourists decides to stop while on vacation. Things seem perfectly quaint to them at first – the scenery is picturesque and things seem relaxed in that typically rural sort of way that city folk just don’t get to appreciate that often. Eventually this unfortunate family - Molly (Josslyn DeCrosta), Jessica (Erica Rhodes), Jerry (David Lombard), and Annette (Lindsay Goranson) – soon find out that the people who live in this small town hide a very dark and sinister secret, and that a young girl named Rosemary (Kate Aspinwall) may very well by the centrifuge.

    Shot in upstate New York, which surprisingly enough does a pretty convincing job of standing in for what this reviewer can only assume, having never personally been there, Ireland would look like. The remote locations used for the shoot definitely deliver loads of atmosphere and make for a perfect location for the film’s ghastly tale to play out over top of. It’s atmosphere, really, that makes Plague Town as good as it is. The acting is a bit uneven in spots, though generally it’s acceptable and at times actually quite good, but the atmosphere is damn near perfect.

    Of course, this being a straight out horror film in the true and undiluted sense of the word, there are a few stand out set pieces. The gore is delivered in convincing and ample amounts and a couple of scenes are scary enough to have some legitimate staying power. Gregory paces the film quite nicely making for a lean picture that moves at a good clip and never overstays its welcome. The lighting, musical score and sound effects are all very appropriate and effective and fit the tone of the picture very nicely and the few moments of comic relief never feel out of place or hurt the film’s often times ominous tone.

    Plague Town isn’t a perfect movie – the acting is a bit overdone in spots and the script, while a whole lot of good scary fun, is a little predictable in spots – but it’s definitely a very entertaining one. For his first attempt at a feature, Gregory has done an impressive job and delivered a horror film that’s bloody, slick, and plenty entertaining.

    Plague Town – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films presents Plague Town on Blu-ray taken from new 2k scans of the original film elements framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 26.2GBs of space on the 50GB disc. There are a couple of minor compression artifacts in a few spots but otherwise this looks very good. The film is, visually speaking, very dark but colors are reproduced well and there’s good detail and texture evident in the image. Noise reduction and edge enhancement are never an issue and the image is very clean, showing a natural amount of film grain but really no noticeable print damage to speak of.

    Severin gives Plague Town a very strong DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stere track – both sound great. There’s some very eerie surround activity present in a few key scenes that really help to build atmosphere while the soundtrack has some welcome kick to it that helps punch things up when the need arises. Levels are well balanced and dialogue always sounds clean and clear. Subtitles are provided in English only.

    Director and co-writer David Gregory is joined by producer Derek Curl for an audio commentary that originally appeared on the 2009 Blu-ray from Dark Sky Films The track covers pretty much every aspect of the production you’d expect it to. They discuss where some of the ideas for the film came from, and tell a few interesting stories from the trenches. Casting, location shooting, and effects work are all covered and they also touch on some of the editing work, the score, and a few other areas. It’s a fairly active talk and the pair is rarely at a loss for words when it comes to talking about this obviously rather personal project.

    White Lace & Button Eyes: The Making Of Plague Town is a new documentary featurette by Howard S. Berger that runs a whopping hour and twenty-six minutes. Made during Covid-19 lockdowns, some of the material was recorded via videoconferencing. Interviewed here are writer/director David Gregory, co-writer/editor John Cregan, co-producer Daryl Tucker, SFX supervisor Tate Steinsiek, producer Derek Curl, actress Josslyn DeCrosta, actress Erica Rhodes, actress Lindsay Goranson, actress Elizabeth Bove, actress Mary Kate Visnic, actress Emily Visnic, actress mom Molly Visnic, actress Kate Aspinwall, production and costume designer Thom Lussier, art director Mike Sanzone, costume and wardrobe worker Kathryn Miriam, stunt coordinator/PA/actor Paul Drechsler-Martell, Mike Gingold and quite a few others. Topics covered here include where Gregory got that idea from, financing the film, writing the script, the film's original trailer, the influence of European horror films, how Gregory got into filmmaker, securing the locations for the shoot, the effects needed for the production, what it was like working in the film as a child actor, the props, the camerawork, what it was like on set and plenty more. There's a load of behind the scenes footage here, video diary entries, stills and other archival bits and pieces in here to go alongside the newly shot interview footage and it turns out to be a really interesting, and insanely comprehensive, look at the making of the movie.

    From there we move on to two archival featurettes, the first of which is A Visit To Plague Town. At nearly a half an hour in length, this documentary features a wealth of interviews with the cast and crew members as well as a load of behind the scenes footage. While the commentary gave you behind the camera perspective on the making of the picture, this featurette lets the performers tell their side as well and it makes for an interesting watch. The second featurette is The Sounds Of Plague Town and it lets the film’s composer and foley artist talk about their work on the picture. Given how important the sound mix is to the film, it’s nice to see them get a chance to discuss their efforts and it’s interesting to learn about this often times fairly overlooked aspect of moviemaking.

    Also carried over for this release is Scathed, a forty-minute student film that Gregory shot years back in 1995. It’s a decent film with a fairly twisted sense of humor that all builds up to a pretty unexpected conclusion. It’s a little less polished than Plague Town and was obviously made with a low budget and without a world of experience, but it’s entertaining none the less and worth checking out for those who enjoy ‘quirky.’

    A second short student film, Til Death, is also included on the disc. It's an eight-minute black and white piece that features a lot of strangely made up people doing strange things while strange music plays in the background. A man and a woman argue (well, mostly she rants and he sits on the couch looknig annoyed), and then she slits her wrists with a razor blade and, at one point, some weird stuff with food is done and we'll just sort of leave it at that but it's a pretty amusing piece of work, equal parts humorous and absurd.

    Rounding out the extra features is the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options. Bundled inside the black keepcase with the Blu-ray disc is the film’s original soundtrack included on CD

    Plague Town – The Final Word:

    An atmospheric and well-made horror film, Plague Town receives a very strong Blu-ray reissue from Severin Films, with a very nice presentation and a host of extra features old and new.

    Click on the images below for full sized Plague TownBlu-ray screen caps!