Seeing Clive Barker's name attached as producer of The Plague was all it took. I was pulling for this movie to succeed like I pull for the Philles to win a playoff game, which happens maybe every 21 years. Seeing as how I'm knee-deep in direct-to-video horror movies so damn often, all it takes is a friendly name like "Clive Barker" to give me fresh hope...
And for the first 30-some minutes of Hal Masonberg's The Plague, I was actively rooting for this movie to keep me interested. Alas, it did not, and The Plague left me wishing that the flick had followed through on its initial (and very cool) premise instead of devolving into yet another (and very stale) zombie-type chase thriller.
The cool premise is this: All of Earth's children (9 years of age and younger) have suddenly become inexplicably comatose. They just drop to the floor, vital signs intact, and twitch around once in a while.
Needless to say, this has the seeds of a very promising premise, and the flick even ups the ante by going all "Ten Years Later" on us. When the new action picks up, The Plague starts to feel like a slowly deflating balloon: Interesting at the outset, and then gradually less compelling as time ticks by. And by the end of The Plague, the movie really does feel like that empty balloon.
I don't want to spoil the story for my fellow horror nuts, but let's just say that after a ten year coma-nap, all the "kids" wake up, and get this: They're murderous! Ack! Various explanations for the phenomenon are bandied about, but the talky stuff takes a distant backseat to endless sequences of people running away from zombified teenage grumpy-heads.
Former Teen Beat star James Van Der Beek gets the lead role here, playing an angry loner who picks the wrong freakin' weekend to amble back into his home town. Ivana Milecivec plays Lead Girl, and she's got some darn fine cheekbones for it. The rest of the cast members play eventual corpses or dead-eyed zombie teens; none of 'em make much of an impression. (I swear I saw Dee Wallace pop up for (maybe) two scenes!)
Surprisingly well-shot and admirable for its attempts to forge a creative new path in the zombie genre, The Plague is ultimately a disappointment, mainly because it degenerates from a cool idea to a very monotonous one with the flip of a switch, but also because it's simply not very scary. Occasionally creepy and Twilight Zone-y, but not really scary.
Video: Choose between anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) or 1.33 full frame. I went with the obvious choice and found it to be a fairly excellent transfer.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) or DD 2.0 (French), with optional subtitles in the same two languages. No complaints on the aural end of the equation.
Extras: Editor Ed Marx and actors Brad Hunt and Joshua Close contribute a typically jocular audio commentary. The guys yak away like they're kicking back with beers, so if you dug the movie (or either of these actors), the commentary might prove fairly entertaining. Also included are eight deleted scenes, which run over 18 minutes in length, and also indicate that this movie was shaven down by someone interested in a speedy running time, because there's some pretty solid scenes in here, stuff that might have improved the movie a little bit.
Rounding out the platter is Sony's patented trailers brigade: Population 436, Road House 2, The Woods, I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, Silent Hill, Hostel, The Dark, Ultraviolet, and ... Don't Come Knocking? That's a weird addition.
The Plague certainly isn't an awful little chiller flick, but given its crafty opening premise (and the attached name of Clive Barker), I was hoping for a little more from the follow-through. It's got a little more brains (and style) than your average zombie-type flick, but not nearly enough of a pulse.