(director/writer: Hal Masonberg; screenwriter: Teal Minton; cinematographer: Bill Butler; editor: Ed Marx; music: Laszlo Remenyi; cast: James Van Der Beek (Tom Russell), Ivana Milicevic (Jean Raynor), Brad Hunt (Sam Raynor), Brittany Scobie (Claire), Josh Close (Kip), Arnie McPherson (David Russell), John Connolly (Sheriff Stewart), Bradley Sawatzky (Deputy Nathan), Dee Wallace (Nora Stewart), Genevieve Pelletier (Nurse Daniels), Chad Panting (Eric Russell); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Clive Barker/Matt Milich/Tim O’Hair/Jorge Saralegui/ Martin Wiley; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 2006)

“A direct-to-video dreary zombie movie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A direct-to-video dreary zombie movie directed by Hal Masonberg (“Mrs. Greer”), with a workable derivative premise that’s somewhat similar to films like “Children of the Damned” and “Village of the Damned.” Unfortunately that interesting premise never realizes its potential. Masonberg cowrote The Plague with Teal Minton, while Clive Barker lent his name to the project as a producer but without making much of a creative contribution. To say this film is poorly plotted and acted and its final resolution makes little sense, is to state the obvious. It’s an awkwardly made horror B-film, though stylish in spots (i.e., a bunch of comatose kids lined up on stretchers in the school gymnasium who all start convulsing in unison as the clock hits the magical hour that they usually go through this ritual and the hospital staff look on nonchalantly as if this is something normal).

One morning all the children in the world under nine go comatose for some mysterious reason. Ten years later the children who were kept alive grow physically but not mentally and awaken as violent teens. The ones kept alive were treated with I. V.s and sponge-baths, either at home or at the world’s biggest new industry of choice: healthcare facilities. We are told that 80% of the nation’s children are kept in healthcare facilities. But with no more children born, the adults worry how the human race will survive.

The youthful unshaven Tom Russell (James Van Der Beek) has just been paroled after serving time for killing a man in a barroom brawl and returns to his New Hampshire hometown where he goes to live in the house of his brother David (Arnie McPherson), who nurses at home his comatose son Eric (Chad Panting). Tom also explains to his ex-wife Jean Raynor (Ivana Milicevic), a hottie nurse at the local hospital, why he still has feelings for her and gave her up because he didn’t want her to be with a jailbird–which goes down to her as just so much b.s., that she turns away from her ex.

Things start getting hectic for Tom and Dave and the community as all of a sudden all the children in the world awaken in unison and in a zombie like manner start attacking every adult. These attacks bring Jean and Tom together, as the children start a winner-take-all ‘generation war.’ Tom leads a bunch of locals who either want to kill all the kids or escape to the next town that’s supposedly not populated with teens, as the filmmaker never made these plans crystal clear and these scenes were shot as if they were by former students who flunked out of the NYU film school and now want to get revenge on those who graduated to make at least competent films. Also in the group are the youngest people in the planet, two nineteen year olds, Claire and Kip (Brittany Scobie & Josh Close), the last children to survive the plague and since they are nearly the same age as the vics tried to make a connection by offering good vibes to reach the kids when they were in comas and now can offer only some kind of mumbo jumbo New Agey inspirational thing.

The filmmaker also neglects to even lay on us a reason for all this weird stuff, probably figuring the film is bad enough and if he had to explain himself it would only make things worse. He throws against the wall the ludicrous possibility of all the children in the world rebelling in unison because the world is a rotten place and also offers us a ludicrous religious apocalypse led by the usual zombies of film lore, but like everything else in this film this is also ineptly handled and the story line never gets promoted beyond the second-grade level though it thinks it hit graduate school. Its last shot flashes to a child having a copy of Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” in his back pocket, as if that Depression-era novel about hope for the family that sticks together is supposed to put this disaster pic on life support and furnish it with a similar allegorical meaning about those who will be saved from the disaster are the ones willing to sacrifice themselves like Christ for the greater good of humanity. Who knows, maybe that was supposed to be the film’s big message! In any case, this is a muddled, dull and poorly shot film that seems to want to be literate and a step above your usual horror pic but can’t pull it off.

After writing the review I received an email from the director informing me of the following: “The version of the film you saw was taken away from its writers, director, actors and DP in the editing room and recut from SCRATCH by Clive Barker and his team. Then it was further messed with by Sony Screen Gems. The creative team behind the film has been VERY vocal about what happened and their desire to get the proper film released, which is a different film frame for frame.”

The Plague Poster