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Population 436 (2006)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Genres:
Supernatural Thriller, Thriller
Director:
Michelle MacLaren Michelle MacLaren
Starring:
David Ames David Ames
Leigh Enns Leigh Enns
Susan Kelso Susan Kelso
Rick Skene Rick Skene
Fred Durst Fred Durst

5.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: September 18, 2006
Every once in a while, a movie will come along that sounds so bad or has something so horrible going on with it that I can't help but check it out to see how much of a trainwreck it'll be. So then, when I saw the weak-sounding storyline behind this movie and found out that Fred Durst (yes, that Fred Durst) had a starring role, I couldn't help but throw it in my Netflix queue and bump it up to the top of the list. After sitting through the film, I find myself in a state of complete and utter shock: not only was the movie good, but Durst actually pulled off his role quite well.

The story revolves around the small town of Rockwell Falls, a town that has had a population of exactly 436 for over a century. This fact doesn't go unnoticed by Steve Kady (Jeremy Sisto), a census worker who has been assigned to do whatever it is that census workers do in these small towns (it's more than just counting people, according to this film, but... yeah, I'm showing my ignorance here, so let's move on). Nothing works out for poor Steve, starting from the moment he arrives on the outskirts of the town and pops the tires on his vehicle. Luckily, police deputy Bobby Caine (Fred Durst) is nearby and offers to drive him into town, where he soon meets Mayor Grateman (Frank Adamson) and the lovely Courtney Lovett (Charlotte Sullivan). Grateman is more than happy to have Steve in his town, so he sets him up a room over at Courtney's house so that he'll be more comfortable as he goes about his census worker duties over the next couple of days. As those days move on, it seems as though the mayor and the rest of the population are just a little too happy to have Steve around, and when the secrets behind the history of the town slowly unfold, these citizens simply refuse to let him leave.

Alright, so the storyline isn't totally original (there was definitely some "inspiration" taken from The Lottery) and it doesn't sound like a winner on paper, but I'll be damned if it didn't keep me entertained from start to finish. This is due in large part to the storyline, which turns out to be exceptionally good for direct-to-video fare such as this. While I had a hunch as to where it was going to go when I read the synopsis (and I was right, to an extent), there's so much more to it that is revealed as the movie progresses. The on screen events move along at just the right pace - it never lingers for too long on any given event, but it doesn't rush through everything either - and combined with some surprisingly good performances from our leading men and women, this was one of those rare films that undeservedly slipped under the radar for most.

Although he does tend to overact in a scene or two, Jeremy Sisto was a mere notch or two below perfection in his role. He's as believable as possible given the circumstances, and although a few of his monologues were a bit out there, I felt as though he was perfectly fine in this leading role. I've enjoyed everything I've seen him in so far, so this was really no huge surprise for me. Fred Durst, on the other hand, shocked the hell out of me with his performance. While he's probably not going to be taking home any awards during his acting career, the man best known for inciting a riot at Woodstock and "doing it all for the nookie" can indeed act. Making this even more shocking is the fact that he plays a character (a dim-witted deputy) that, depending on your personal opinion of him, is either quite different from his real personality or pretty close to home. It's not the sort of role that I'd picture Durst in, but he nailed it.

Feeling like a feature-length version of The Twilight Zone with its bizarre revelations and small town setting, this is definitely one to check out if you're a fan of the aforementioned show or thrillers in general. This certainly isn't how I thought I'd be wrapping up the review - I was fully expecting to end it with something along the lines of "MacLaren, please, give up your directing career now" - but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Give it a chance, and I think that you'll see that I'm not alone in that sentiment. 7/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 09/21/2006, 04:50 PM
This was one of those films I picked up because the movie that I really wanted could not be found. As soon as I saw that the film starred Fred Durst, my stomach sank. Jeremy Sisto is all right, but not even he could help salvage this train wreck of a film. This was like "1,000 Maniacs" crossed with "The Wicker Man" with a little "Chocolate Starfish & The Hotdog Flavored Water" thrown in for good effect. There were a couple of cool little sequence, but over all, this was as bland as they come. And, while Fred Durst does do better than I would have ever imagined, he is still not an actor and this film certainly doesn't help push his performance agenda. 4/10.
Tristan #2: Tristan - added 08/19/2008, 09:42 PM
I'm glad I watched it, but it wasn't anything to write home about. 6/10
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