DVD Review: Clive Barker’s The Plague
By Patrick Luce Sep 5, 2006, 18:28 GMT
The film follows Tom Russell (Van Der Beek) returns home after doing time for murder to discover his hometown has gone mad when all the children of the world awaken from a mysterious ten-year coma. The ten years had served as an incubation period, during which the children who are now teenagers, had developed supernatural powers. Now awake, the bloodshed begins - and time is not on the side of ...more
Clive Barker’s The Plague is a fairly straight forward “paint by numbers” horror film that features a town being over ran by zombie-like teens, and a handful of people banning together to survive.
The film was produced by master of horror Clive Barker (under the writer’s Midnight Picture Show), and stars James Van Der Beek (Varsity Blues, TV’s “Dawson’s Creek”) and Dee Wallace Stone (The Howling, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial). It was directed by
Hal Masonberg (Mrs. Greer) who co-wrote the screenplay with Teal Minton.
The movie kicks off with all the young children of the world slipping into coma mysteriously at the same time. The plot (yes there is a small one) then skips ahead about ten years to follow Tom Russell (Van Der Beek) as he returns home from prison. He was doing time in the slammer for killing a guy in a bar fight (somehow picturing Dawson in a bar fight that result in him doing prison time is actually scary or laughable). Tom returns home to find that the coma kids (who all look like leftovers from Night of the Living Dead) are finally waking up and they are really mad.
It appears that the ten years have served as an incubation period, and the kids (now teenagers) have developed “supernatural powers,” and are really thirsty for some good old fashion killing. Tom, his ex-wife Jean Raynor (Ivana Milicevic), his old buddy Sam Raynor (Brad Hunt) gather in a church with a few other townspeople (including a very short appearance by Stone who must have been added to give the film some horror credit). They slowly come under siege from all the teens, and are forced to fight it out to survive (like I said there is not much plot).
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much out of The Plague, but was rather disappointed in what the movie had to offer. With Barker’s involvement, I was hoping for something a little original and maybe a few moments that might make you want to jump or give the spine a tingle. Instead, I watched the film simply waiting on the final credits to roll and put me out of my misery.
The movie’s plot basically combines several “zombie” pictures (from Night of the Living Dead to 1987’s Prince of Darkness), and is actually so formulaic that it kills any chance of being suspenseful. Even the film’s music is predictable with the classic “horror” themes telegraphing any time the group is about to be attacked by the coma teens.
Van Der Beek is also fairly bad in the movie delivering his lines with a deadpan tone that makes you wonder how the actor ever saw any success on that Dawson’s Creek show. Some of his performance can be blamed on a rather weak plot, and very little chance for any kind of character development. At the same time, in a film like this the main actor has to be able to carry some of the film’s faults and make up for its weaker moments. To me, Van Der Beek’s performance was channeling a wimpier version of what Roddy Piper did in John Carpenter's They Live – only it worked for Piper.
With all that said, the movie does have a gore factor to it that fans of horror will enjoy. While parts of the movie flat out crawl at a snail’s pace, Masonberg and company make sure to put in plenty of people getting their heads busted open, or spewing blood at just the right moments. These scenes fail to make up for the film’s other problems, but also make it not a total waste of time for fans of the genre.
The DVD’s special features include eight deleted scenes which go into the Tom character a little more, but don’t really add enough to change your opinion about the movie. There is also commentary with cast and editor of the film, but not a word from the director.
When I saw the press release for Clive Barker’s The Plague, I was fairly interested in seeing it, but somewhat hesitant since I didn’t know how involved the writer actually was in making the movie. After watching it, I hope Barker simply wrote a check and walked away.
The Plague follows the trends of past great horror films and of the directors (such as John Carpenter) who created them. At the same time, it fails to really bring anything original to the screen or to make it entertaining. If you are a fan of these kinds of movies, then I would recommend sticking with the classics and giving this one a pass.