"Plague Town" is one of those rare modern horror movies that manages to successfully evoke a 1970s vibe. The tone and feel of the movie make you feel like you're watching something out of that era. In fact, the film's nighttime mood reminded me a bit of the creepy "Lemora: Lady Dracula." The story is kind of a cross between "Island of the Damned" and "The Hills Have Eyes."
After the film's shocker of an opening, featuring a priest and a bloodily botched attempt at a post-birth abortion, the film flashes forward 14 years. An American family on holiday in Ireland get lost (uh oh) and head out to a small town to get their bearings straight. We've got a bearded father, his girlfriend, two daughters, and a drunken British guy tagging along. As they wander around town looking for some guidance on getting out, things get downright creepy. The first townie touches one of the girls. Things get even worse when another townie pulls out a shotgun and blasts the British guy in the face.
But things get even worse when darkness falls and ... yes ... the children come out to play. Not just any children, mind you, but mutant, horribly deformed and very evil children. Now we know the motivation behind the botched abortion in the opening scene. This town has been giving birth to evil mutant children for quite some time now. Apparently the adults have grown accustomed to it and are all right to let the demonic kids out to play at night. Basically, what the kids like to do is torture and kill "outsiders." They're not unlike the mutants we saw in "Wrong Turn 2." I absolutely hated these sadistic mutant kids and cheered every time one of our heroes got to kill one of them.
Now, granted, "Plague Town" has a pretty ludicrous concept. But first-time director Gregory makes up for it with tons and tons of atmosphere -- hence the comparison to "Lemora Lady Dracula." Gregory milks the nighttime setting for all its worth -- from the creepy woods surrounding the town to the gingerbread-like houses that inhabit it. This film is basically a nightmare fairy tale.
The creepiest character of all has to be Rosemary, a girl who has "come of age" as her mother puts it, and is hoping to hook up with an "out of towner." Like some of the deformed kids, she was born without eyes, so her mother plastered two fake plastic eyes on her face. Like all the other deformed kids, she's an evil, sadistic killer to the core.
Granted, some of the acting isn't great. Many of the killings are ludicrous. And the film's opening act is dull enough that many people will stop watching the film. But once the story gets going and our characters' situation becomes dire, this movie grabs you by the throat and ever lets go. It creeped me out, which is saying a lot considering how many of these genre films I've sat through over the decades.