Horror. Worldview. Faith.

The Plague – Review

The Plague – Review

Feb 2, 2010

reviewed by Hallo
directed by Hal Masonberg, 2006
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Whenever you see the name “Clive Barker” attached to any horror film project there is a anticipatory sense of quality and creepiness.  Such was my expectation when dialing in director Hal Masonberg’s 2006 movie The Plague through my “On Demand” service.  Barker was one of apparently several producers involved with the film which is based on a epidemic that strikes teenagers at the same time all across the world.  Panic ensues as parents rush their children to hospitals to see what can be done about their coma-like state.  Nothing, of course, is the answer and the world has to patiently wait to see if not only the children will awake, but if there is a future for civilization on Earth.

The story follows the events through the eyes of Tom Russell (James Van Der Beek) who is a single parent of one son.  Tom has to wait ten agonizing years before he finally is able to see his son function on his own again.  Unfortunately, upon his son’s revival from the coma, Tom discovers that his precious boy only wants one thing – to kill Tom.  In fact, all the children of the world wake up at the same time and begin stalking humans in a zombie like manner, although unlike traditional zombies, the children move very fast and have normal coordination skills which makes them able to use weapons, etc.  What follows is a series of slasher-esque killings where the townsfolk are running for their lives from the deranged zombie-children.  Throw in a love interest for Tom, as well as a reunion with an estranged brother, and you have the completion of the plot narrative.  The story ends, as you might expect, with everyone succumbing to the terror of the children except Jean, Tom’s love interest.  What Jean discovers throughout the movie is that the children just simply want someone to be “ready” and “willing” to offer themselves to the zombies.   They apparently are able to “absorb” life and influence from the adults they touch.   Once this willingness is offered to the children, you apparently get to live in peace.

The beginning few minutes of The Plague shows great promise.  The action begins quickly and the momentum continues to build, especially when Tom rushes his drooling, coma-induced son to the hospital only to be told to “get in line.”  We then see the horror of hundreds of children experiencing the same fate as Tom’s son.  Even during the interim between the children’s reception of the plague and their coming out of it ten years later, the film provides some eerie imagery and perks the curiosity of the viewer.  One such example is when a nurse who is “on duty” and watching a gymnasium full of comatose children is unaware that every child in the gym, probably a couple of hundred, turn their heads and look at her all at once.  Pretty creepy.

Unfortunately, the children wake up.  And what follows is an incredibly disappointing series of deaths at the hands of the ticked-off children.  No explanation is ever given for the cause of the plague, a reality that does not by default ruin the movie since no real explanation is given for the zombies in Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead.   However, the social commentary in the latter is clear and poignant.  Not so in The Plague.  We are left guessing what the picture is ultimately trying to say, and probably it isn’t trying to say much except provide a creepy concept from which to build.  There are some indications of a religious theme hidden in the film when the core group of survivors has to hide in a church.  Some texts are read about fathers and sons, mothers and daughters coming against each other.  But if the filmmakers were trying to provide a concrete foundation for the horrific events that have transpired over the last ten years, they failed.

In light of this, I will make up my own social commentary which is admittedly peering too deep inside a simple, low budget horror film.  Having said that, there could be a hinting at the universal need and desire of all teenagers to receive influence from their parents and from adults.  Without the proper time and energy spent by adults to teach, discipline, train, and love our children, there is a risk of them turning to a cookie-cutter mentality of what seems appropriate, popular, and acceptable.  Thus, they lose their true identity and are a product of society, turning on the very ones they most long to receive attention from.  The only cure is to stop, re-prioritize, and give ourselves to the younger generation.

All of that is probably garbage.  But, it at least provides some help to a movie that has great potential but fails to follow through.  I liked it.  I just didn’t like it enough.

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2 comments

  1. I thought you might like to know that THE PLAGUE was taken away from its creative team in post production and re-cut from scratch by Barker’s people and Screen Gems into a film unrecognizable from the film we made. Ever since, I and many of the cast and crew have been fighting to get the proper cut released. CLIVE BARKER’S THE PLAGUE was everything we didn’t want in a film. I assure you the film we wrote and made is the polar opposite of what you saw. Please take some time and visit our site: http://www.spreadingtheplague.com/ There you will find written interviews, commentaries, radio interviews, articles (MovieMaker Magazine, Cinematical, etc.), reviews of the Writers & Director’s Cut of the film, video interviews, etc. All you could ever want to know about the history behind this film and the campaign to get the proper version released. I cannot stress enough how completely different the two cuts are. To give you an example, though, you may also want to take a look at a side-by-side comparison I did here: http://halmasonberg.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/the-art-of-film-editing-the-plague-of-ego/

    Thanks for your time and please email me if you have any unanswered questions. We can use all the support we can find out there. We also have a petition to Screen Gems asking them to release the proper cut. We currently have over 1660 signatures and growing daily. The back story on this film and how it was destroyed is detailed in this piece written for MovieMaker Magazine: http://www.spreadingtheplague.com/Text/perfect.htm

    Thanks again,

    Hal Masonberg

  2. Thanks for your comment; I am more than happy to forward our readers to your provided links so they can know the whole story. Your comments, as my review in part suggests, seems to coincide with what I saw on film – a potentially great horror film (especially the build up) that loses its thrust. If there is a way to get the writers & directors cut to me, I would be happy to posit another review.

    Best of Luck,
    Hallo

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