Small Town Folk
When you think of making a movie, the first thought is how much money it will cost to produce. Some modern blockbusters can receive a budget that can go into the hundreds of millions of dollars. A regular movie can run about $50 million, and even a modest independent flick can cost you about $5 million. When I heard the budget for the movie ‘Small Town Folk’ was about $6,000 (actually£ 4,000) I was amazed. I was even more pleasantly surprised when I sat down to watch the flick. It was head and shoulders above the usual horror flicks of late that had an order of magnitude larger available budget. This is what Indy films are all about, a group of people is having a vision and desire to create a film and working for years to see that dream come to life. The cast and crew financed the movie over a period of four years. This is a dedication to your craft, and it should be lauded if only for that fact. What is better still is the fact that the movie works as a solid piece of entertainment. It just goes to show you that while there is a place for the huge budget films, it is not a requirement for a movie with quality. Sure, there are technical flaws through the production, and it could have used some more work, but the main point here is this group put this together for the sheer love of the art of cinema. This is a ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ movie and ye,s, it has been done better, but this one meets with the goal of providing a moody, scary flick. That is a lot more than can be said about the plethora of horror flicks that depend only on buckets of stage blood and a few nubile young ladies with a complete lack of modesty. After the movie is in the can the real hard part come for the new filmmaker; getting it seen? This movie made the rounds in some of the independent film festivals before garnering DVD releases in Europe. It is now our turn and Xenon Pictures, a division of Lion’s Gate Films, is handling the DVD distribution here in the States. If you see any faults while watching this movie, remember that it was done for less than you may have spent on the home theater system you watched it on. You can take $6,000 to watch movies; these people took that same amount and made one.
In a film like this, it should come as no surprise that there are some people credited with the story. As an ensemble effort, the group looked to several people for ideas and a working script. The amount of material contributed is less important than the synergy that was achieved. The list of authors is; Chris R. Wright and Dan Palmer for additional material, Chris Musselwhite for a specific scene and the main screenplay with Natalie Conway and Peter Stanley-Ward. The story doesn’t come across as piecemeal at all. It is cohesive and coherent giving the audience a horror tale that you can have fun watching. Perhaps the most important element of a horror flick is creating a suitable spooky environment. This has to set the stage for the conflict between the insane killers/stalker and the victims. In this case, they go for a couple of classic plot devices. They trap their victims in a backwoods area. On the outskirts of town live a couple of guys who collectively could not muster an IQ in the room temperature range and they are also a few chromosomes short of a genome. There is something about this type of antagonists that strikes a chord with the audience; they never fail to ensure a creepy feel. The victims are a little off the beaten track for a film of this genre. Replacing the hackney teens gone wild is a married couple who disregard some road signs and wind up in the wrong rural area. Out of the team of writers, they should have come up with a little more character development to assist the audience in relating to the hapless couple. They almost feel like a typical horror flick teen couple who survived high school and got married.
This is the first time as writer, director, and producer for Peter Stanley-Ward. He did a great job here. The film is paced well. It has a natural flow to it that slowly pulls in the audience. While some of the plot devices are predictable the fun here is in the presentation. Underlying it all is the ‘lets put on a show’ attitude that all involved had. Stanley-Ward and his mates are big fans of the film. He places more than a few winks to such classics as ‘Star Wars’ and the ‘Indiana Jones’ movies. While this could come across as cheesy here, it somehow works as an inside joke for all film buffs. There are the traditional horror flicks elements present here including the killers wearing scary, homemade masks. You don’t stop to think why one would be needed in such a remote location with the chances of the victims surviving almost nothing but you go with it for the fun of the experience.
The film opens with a narrator reciting a really bad and mildly sinister poem about being caught in the wrong place. The opening shot is cheap, homemade computer graphics but it does serve to set the mood. We see Beasley’s Manor, an ominous house sitting atop a hill in a remote location. A young man comes running out from it. It does look like much of this way down with a green screen of some sort to keep the production costs down. A voice says ‘run rabbit here comes the farmer with his gun’; it is certain that this is not a local bed and breakfast. After a little more with the fate of the young man the stage is set that this is defiantly not the place to come across That brings us to the main characters Jon (Greg Martin) and his wife Susan (Hannah Flint). They are on holiday and of course, are lost. Being a man, Jon is not the type to ask for directions much to the consternation of Susan. There wouldn’t be much of a story if they place the stumble into wasn’t the site of a crazy couple of men. The first sign that they should get out of there is when they come across a man (Howard Lew Lewis) with a small man (Warwick Davis) perched on his back. He warns them no matter what don’t go near the town of Grockleton. It is not on the map and for a good reason. It is the roach motel for people; you enter but never leave. The reason is the killers above. They enjoy chasing down anyone who happens by, and if one of the interlopers happens to be an attractive young woman, then they have a shot at making sure their bloodline is continued.
The film has a lot that people will complain about but get over it. This is an honest effort by people with little experience in filmmaking. A filmmaker must start somewhere, and it took guts to put this together, and I admire them all for that. Xenon is the arm of Lion’s Gate that tends to find the quirkier flicks around and gives them a chance at a broader audience. Give this one a shot.
Posted 12/30/08 Posted 06/21/2018