Directed by Greg Page
Produced by Steve Sachs
Written by Greg Page
Director of Photograpy Bret Nichols
Music by Victoria Kelly
Cast: John Barker, Dwayne Cameron, Kate Elliot, Aidee Walker & Paul Glover
2003/88 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/New Zealand/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD
In this post-FIGHT CLUB and SIXTH SENSE era, films with plot twists have become their own genre. (Films such as the recent HIDE AND SEEK exist solely for their twists.) Thus, it's nice to see a film which can not only offer us a plot twist, but a twist on entire genre as well. This is the case with the New Zealand product THE LOCALS as movie in which the characters take a unexpected turn, as does the story.
As THE LOCALS opens, we meet Grant (John Barker) and Paul (Dwayne Cameron). Grant has just been dumped by his girlfriend and is quite depressed, while Paul insists that they go forth with their planned surf trip. Grant reluctantly agrees. It immediately becomes apparent that Grant is the quiet, introspective type, while Paul is an energetic braggart. Thus, Grant doesn't put up much of a fight when Paul insists on taking an unmarked short cut. The guys then meet two girls, Kelly (Kate Elliot) and Lisa (Aidee Walker), who are going to a party and invite the boys to follow them.
While driving down the dark dirt roads, Paul loses control of the car, which gets stuck in a ditch. While looking for assistance, Grant and Paul witness a crime committed by an eerie man (Peter McCauley). They now find themselves on the run from this man and his group of cronies. Despite assistance from a local farmer (Paul Glover), the guys can't seem to escape from their pursuers. However, they will soon learn that being chased isn't the worst thing that will happen to them tonight.
For the first forty minutes of THE LOCALS, the movie plays like any other "city folk lost in the country film". The story is very similar to those seen in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, and WRONG TURN. But, once the farmer takes Grant to the local cemetery, the film takes a sudden turn and becomes much, much more. The "on the run from the yokels" movie instantly transforms into a supernatural film and the viewer (and the characters) are thrown for a loop. It becomes apparent that Grant and Paul will have to do more than outrun their pursuers in order to survive this ordeal.
It's this plot twist which sets THE LOCALS apart from other films in this genre and places it closer to something like DEAD END where a lonely road leads into another world. However, unlike DEAD END, the ending of THE LOCALS isn't very satisfying. What is happening in the film is clear, but WHY it's happening is never fully explained. I can imagine that this won't be important to some viewers, but I wanted to know why the events in the movie transpired. Also, the relationship between the killer and the farmer is clearly important in the movie, but it's never fully explored. These deficits don't necessarily detract from the film, but they keep THE LOCALS from being a truly great film.
While the plot hole clearly bothered me, the film does a great number of things right. For a low-budget film, THE LOCALS has a very nice look. While some scenes are unrealistically lit (it's far too bright for the countryside), the film is truly polished-looking. The cast is also good, especially John Barker and Dwayne Cameron, who are very believable as two friends on a road trip who react to the horror in their own way. Writer/director Greg Page keeps things moving along at a nice pace and while some may balk at the 88 minute running time, I admire the fact that he recognized that he didn't fill the movie with superfluous fluff. And while the genre changing plot twist defines the movie, there's another (somewhat predictable) twist at the 68-minute mark which is a shocker.
Many years ago, Peter Jackson put a (bloody) face on New Zealand genre films. Greg Page carries on that tradition, but in a spookier sense with THE LOCALS. The film is flawed, but if you're in the mood for an old-fashioned supernatural horror film, this is certainly worth a rental.
THE LOCALS crashes onto DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks great, as the image is very sharp and clear. The picture shows basically no grain and no defects from the source material. (In fact, the picture is so clear that it's distracting at times.) The colors look very good as well, as the film is dominated by the greens of the surrounding fields. There are some mild haloes around the characters at times, but otherwise, this transfer looks great. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which sounds pretty good. However, there is a problem with the dynamic range here, as the bass response is far louder than the dialogue. Thus, there is some volume adjusting necessary. While this is a pain, the surround sound and subwoofer effects are good, and Chapter 8 contains one of the best explosions that I've ever heard. The soft dialogue isn't helped by the thick New Zealand accents which some of the characters have, and at times I really had trouble understanding what was being said. I wish that Anchor Bay would join the rest of us here in the 21st century and add either subtitles or closed captioning to their DVDs.
THE LOCALS DVD contains a few extras. Writer/director Greg Page provides an audio commentary. Page is quite enthusiastic and speaks at length throughout the entire film. He talks about the actors and the production, and gives many specifics about what it was like to shoot this low-budget film mostly on cold nights. But, Page also sounds like a fan at times, as he gets very excited about certain scenes. Page never elaborates on the origin of the msyterious occurrences in the film, save to say that "the land is bruised". What? "Behind-the-Scenes" is a 6-minute segment which contains on-set video. It's basically random shots of on-set action interspersed with occasional comments from the cast and crew. The extras are rounded out by the trailer for THE LOCALS, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and 16 x 9.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©
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