Monday, November 2, 2009

Mini Review: Population 436 (2006)

Three word review: Population Shit Sandwich

In all seriousness, the movie is pretty terrible. I decided to watch it on a Netflix Instant whim, and while it wasn't bad enough to get uncerimoniously turned off (a nice benefit of instant viewing), I in no way recommend or endorse seeing it.

The premise is tantilizing in its vagueness: a census worker investigates a remote hamlet that's population has remained at the exact same number for a century. A good writer could take that sentence and go nearly anywhere with it. The problem is that Population 436 (spoiler alert) takes it somewhere in the general vicinity of nowhere. The town ends up being a rather benign religious cult that assigns special theological importance on the number 436 and strictly maintains its population at that number. Unexplained supernatural forces make sure that women always go into labor whenever someone is about to kick the bucket. Those same forces supposedly also prevent anyone who spends the night in town from ever leaving. When someone new arrives from the outside world, however, the supernatural takes a bit of a vacation, leaving the townspeople to choose who to kill Lottery style.The above description actually makes the film sound significantly more awesome than it is. For the most part, nothing happens. The census worker, played by the always adequate Jeremy Sisto, spends most of the film wandering about town, getting weirded out by the townspeople, and otherwise laboring through a rip off of The Wicker Man nearly as bad as that film's infamous remake. (And that one at least has Nick Cage randomly beating the shit out of women.)
Just swap Cage for Sisto, and 'punching' for 'talking'.

Often misclassified as a horror film, Population 436 is better described as a 'tragic bro-mance' between Sisto and the #1 reason why I should have been smart enough to not watch the film: Fred Durst. That's right, the Limp Biskit frontman and proud illiterate has a full on supporting role as the town's simpering vagina of a sheriff's deputy. (I actually had to double check which character he played on IMDB, as it turns out I don't recognize the dude without his trademark baseball cap and douche goatee. In all honesty, he's not that bad of an actor.) The two men become fast friends over some back-forty target practice. (The audience knows this because Durst awkwardly proclaims it after they spend less than a day together.) Of course, Sisto has to go and totally ruin things by scoring with the town's single hot chick, who the terminally shy Durst happens to be pining for. Their afternoon long friendship shattered, Durst almost gives in to the town elders' wish for him to take Sisto out, but their man-crush is too strong and he ultimately lets the outsider go at the film's comically overwrought emotional climax.
I wish I could quit you.

So our hero rescues the town's lone sane person (a little girl) and rides off into the sunset. Right? Who cares that absolutely nothing gets explained or resolved? Actually, an anti-climax isn't enough for Population 436, it boasts an anti-deus ex machina (diablous ex machina? crepusculum plaga ex machina?) where the strange green filtered dream the protagonist has been having turns out to be a prophetic vision of objects in his escape vehicle. These objects then distract him from the giant oncoming truck.

Damn it! Fred Durst didn't even die! That was the only way I rationalized watching a film with him in it: "It's a horror film, so he'll probably die. Seeing Fred Durst die should make up for having to see Fred Durst act."

Movies to watch instead of Population 436:
Hot Fuzz
The Wicker Man
Children of the Corn
The Wicker Man again
The Wicker Man remake


  1. Just watched "My Neighbor Totoro" last night. A fairly important character in the film is a cat who is also a bus. It's Cronenberg, Hayao Miyazaki style!

  2. Just once I'd like to see you ceremoniously turn off a movie. You could chant a bit, sing a hymn, then alight your Roku box for delivering to you such an affront to God.

  3. I should have at least sacrificed Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter to a bonfire or something.