Reviewed by: Rees Savidis
What's it about
A big-city census taker (Jeremy Sisto) is charged with investigating why the population of the small town of Rockwell Falls hasn’t changed in over one hundred years. Has someone simply forgotten to carry the zero, or are there darker more sinister forces at work?
Is it good movie?
When Population 436 first arrived in the mail, I let a little sarcastic air slip from my lips, pretty much dismissing it right away as just another tired direct-to-video shelf-filler, especially after getting a look at the two names that graced the top of the DVD artwork: Jeremy Sisto and Fred Durst. Yup, that Fred Durst - more on him in a moment. Imagine my surprise when I popped this sucker into my DVD player and found it to be a nifty little psychological shocker along the lines of The Wicker Man. Color me impressed!
One of the things I found most impressive about Population 436 is the decidedly analog approach the film takes with its shocks. We are so awash with zero attention span horror films these days, what with rapid-fire editing tricks, hip soundtracks and cheap, flashy scares taking the place of real narrative that it’s become increasingly difficult, actually near impossible, to get scared anymore. Ask yourself; when was the last time you were honestly frightened by a film – or at the very least, unsettled? That’s where the effectiveness of Population 436 lies; its uncanny ability to get under your skin without really showing you anything that could be construed as “shocking” or “grotesque” is no mean feat. Population 436 channels its fear by being unassuming. The film doesn’t wear its horror label like some blood-soaked badge, bragging that it’s going to scare the lunch out of you with whiplash visuals and blaring music cues, marking the moments where we’re supposed to be horrified or repulsed; instead, it draws you into the mystery of what’s happening in the town of Rockwell Falls with a carefully designed narrative, slow and steady (no heavy-handed-hammer-to-the-skull shit here), as well as giving us a lead character that we actually care about. It’s those two things alone that entice you to keep watching, waiting for the end resolve.
I mentioned at the top of this review that I made some sort of smart-ass remark when I first saw Population 436 in my mailbox, what with seeing Fred Durst’s name splashed across the top of the key-art and all. Apparently there’s something about not judging a book by it’s something or other? Cover? Yeah, that’s it! Well shit the bed, I never thought I be saying this but Fred Durst can act! I’m not talkin’ Olivier or Brando here, but, for the singer of the lame-ass angst-metal-hip-hop-hybrid band Limp Bizkit, this guy's got some pretty good chops when it comes to delivering a believable, and quite restrained, turn as the love-struck-good-guy sheriff’s deputy, Bobby Caine. I feel kind of weird for saying this, but I can honestly see Durst having a decent second career as an actor. Again, never thought I’d be saying that.
Video / Audio
VIDEO: Population 436 is presented in a very nice 1.78:1 anamorphic video that does great service to the gorgeous rolling landscapes of Rockwell Falls (in reality Winnipeg, Manitoba).
AUDIO: Perfectly serviceable Dolby Digital 5.1. Everything sounds as it should: loud and discernable.
Two words: Jack and shit. Here’s the list: Two trailers and an alternate ending.
The trailers are for two other DTV cheapies: The Plague and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, while the alternate ending is simply a happier version of the existing, and refreshingly bleak, ending that closes out the film. No commentary? No making of? What gives guys?
This flick surprised the shit out of me. Population 436 is the antithesis to all of the Saw rip-offs and cocaine-fueled-sensory-sodomizing pieces of shit that seem to clog video stores these days. Population 436 is a quiet, moody and wholly effective throwback to the eerie, get-inside-you-head type horror flicks we just don’t get anymore.