Film Review: Small Town Folk (2007)

 

SYNOPSIS:

Stumbling upon the remote village of Grockleton — where backward locals and their creepy landlord (Chris R. Wright) kill uninvited interlopers — married couple Susan (Hannah Flint) and Jon (Greg Martin) find themselves in a fight for their lives. But their situation becomes truly twisted when the landlord decides to take Susan as his own bride. Peter Stanley-Ward directs while Simon Stanley-Ward co-stars as another would-be victim.

REVIEW:

Small Town Folk is a movie that tries for stylization through the use of unneeded digital video and green screen shots, but just ends up looking weird. You know how, in movies from the thirties and forties, when characters are seen driving through picturesque scenery, the same backgrounds are shown in a loop over and over again. Small Town Folk reminds me of that, as it uses many of the same shots, while jumping back and forth between a natural setting, the front of a green screen, and stock footage. On top of the bizarre visual style, Small Town Folk makes the mistake a lot of small budget horror films make. Is it a film that is trying to make you laugh first and scare second or vice versa? The villains of the movie are grossly exaggerated versions of stereotypical inbred backwoods types from a multitude of horror movies, this time intended for comedic effect, but the slapstick is turned on and off depending on the way the director felt like playing a particular scene.

The movie starts the same way all backwoods movies do: a couple lost on the road in the middle of nowhere. They meet the archetypal creepy strangers played by Howard Lew Lewis and horror icon Warwick Davis. The couple is warned to stay away from the light road to Grockelton, but wind up going down it anyway to stay at the only inn in the area for miles. While at the inn, Jon and Susan learn that Susan is pregnant. Meanwhile, a group of teenagers are exploring the woods near Grockelton. Two of the teens go farther into the woods to, you guessed it, have sex, and everybody in the theatre (if not on the screen) know what’s going happen next. Yes, the guy is killed and the girl is dragged into the basement. One of the other teens, Marcus, while exploring on his own, has an animal shot right in front of him by one of the folk. He gets his face splattered with blood and sets off on a Rambo- like escape through the woods.

Susan spots the young teen being dragged into the basement and realizes it’s time to go. Jon and Susan run outside and drive away. When the inbreeds discover the positive pregnancy test, they immediately set out after the young couple, seeing see this as the only opportunity to keep their family line and the town of Grockelton surviving after they’re gone. Inevitably, Jon and Susan’s car runs out of gas and the inbreed gang catches up with them. Susan is then abducted. Shortly after this Jon and Marcus team-up in order to rescue Susan and take down the small town folk.

Despite (or because, given the movie’s basic and usually unsuccessful mixture of genres) his characterization primarily as a nerd, most of the bad assness in Small Town Folk’s group of teenagers comes from Marcus who has three kills in the movie, two of which are in choreographed fights. I have to admit I was impressed with Simon Stanley-Ward’s adeptness with fight choreography. While the fights are not high action thrill rides, they certainly look believable as Marcus heroically takes down much larger and much more villainous opponents with much sharper weapons.

The other things I have to commend on this low budget mess are the costuming and make-up. While the actors can’t quite decide whether they’re asked to make you laugh or make you scared, the costumes certainly would have pushed the balance toward horror if the actors weren’t so poorly directed and so prone to chewing the scenery. The Scarecrow Brothers had the best costumes, which look like bizarre backwoods S and M gear. The make-up on the rest of the citizens of Grockelton is great as well, each townsperson with his own distinct look in contrast to the interchangeable villains in most modern backwoods killer films.

(I can’t remember the difference between the three practically identical villains in Wrong Turn). There are also some plot turns in Small Town Folks that diverge from the typical formula.Overall Small Town Folk’s switches between live settings and CGI are too distracting to really make a suspenseful horror film. This film is not completely unwatchable, but lacks focus in the acting as well as the visual effects, and any consistency in the mood.

Small Town Folk (2007)

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