Population 436 is a movie that you want to like, maybe even love. It’s well-acted, got an interesting story & some satisfying horror elements but while watching an itch will start. Just a tickle at first but noticeable, then as the movie goes on it worsens until its maddening & you just have to scratch until you bleed.
What is this itch? The total lack of originality.
Steve Kady (Jeremy Sisto), works for the US Census Bureau & is sent to the remote & small town of Rockwell Falls in North Dakota. Arriving near to the town he hits some bad potholes which burst his tyres leaving him stranded. Thankfully the deputy of Rockwell Falls, Bobby Caine (Fred Durst) arrives & takes him into town.
Now let’s stop for a moment because you’re likely to have read that last line & thought: Fred Durst? As in the frontman of the multi-million record selling band, Limp Bizkit? Yes. Yes, Deputy Bobby Caine is played by THAT Fred Durst.
If that wasn’t strange enough, he is pretty damn decent here & his character happens to be one of the more layered & interesting!
Rockwell Falls is an idyllic place; the people are friendly & happy if not a little bit heavy on the god-fearing. Add that they talk of a ‘fever’, treat Steve like he lives there & don’t seem to like it when people want to leave & what you have is a town hiding stuff.
Things get even stranger when Steve discovers that the town’s population has stayed at 436 for the last 100 years. No increase, no decrease & he is determined to find out how that is possible.
The first half of Population 436 is really exciting & mysterious. Lots of character development, lots of build & lots of intrigue. It drip-feeds it’s important plot points so that the story being told occurs naturally. It doesn’t feel forced. That is until the big reveal that comes far too early resulting in a lacklustre second half of the movie.
It’s very disappointing that it plays its hand so soon as the movie just can’t live up to the expectation. It’s at this stage that the similarities between Population 436 & a whole host of other movies become so obvious. The meshing of these films ends up leaving the one you’re watching feeling less like homage & more of a rip-off.
To top it off, the ending is so unsatisfying, leaving you with nothing but a shoulder shrugging feeling. It’s a real pity as the film does so well with good acting, memorable characters & so much initial mystery.
Still, well worth a watch even if it’s just to see Fred Durst as a really likable guy!