The Locals

Starring: John Barker, Dwayne Cameron and Kate Elliott
Mosaic Entertainment
Rental MMR50124

Certificate: 15
Available 27 August 2004

Grant and Paul are two friends who decide to embark on a surfing weekend. Deep in the country late at night they meet Kelly and Lisa, two attractive girls who invite them to a party. But following the speeding car, their own vehicle slides off the road and becomes stuck in the dirt. The young men go in search of someone to help them pull it out, but as they approach a house they hear the sounds of an argument and watch, horrified, through the window as a man slits the throat of a woman...

The aggressor sees the onlookers and suddenly the boys are on the run trailed by a pickup truck full of men. Splitting up either side of the road, Grant encounters a man with a rifle who appears at times to be a protector and at others a straightforward madman with a gun. Paul comes across the two girls again. They agree to drive to where the party is being held and bring back help.

On the way they see two men attempting to repair a car; there is an accident involving inflammable liquid and the two men are consumed by the flames. When Paul and the girls reach the party venue no one is there, but as they search the place the two dead men turn-up looking none-the-worse for their ordeal. It is the first indication that something much more than a simple murder and cover-up is going on. There are supernatural occurrences at play here, and the location is not what it seems. Time is having a strange effect, and for Grant and Paul events turn increasingly more bizarre.

The Locals is one of those films which comes along every so often where you're not expecting much and are pleasantly surprised. In the early stages I found my opinion constantly changing. At first it looks certain to be another teenage horror flick, but then it steers towards Deliverance territory, veers off to The Hills Have Eyes/Wrong Turn, and finally arrives in a place we've never quite been before.

There's no way this obviously low-budget film should work: the acting is not that good (but by no means dire), the handful of effects shots are a little stuttery, and there's little sense of structure for the locations or indeed the film itself. However, The Locals offers an original slant on this scenario, and the disjointed feel suits the strange style. It's rather clever in a way; it's only at the film's conclusion that you realise the reason for a multitude of anomalies, such as the girls wearing 1980s clothes, the party venue being abandoned and run-down, etc.

Writer and director Greg Page is already well known in New Zealand for his commercials and music videos; this is his first feature, and he has to be congratulated for hitting the mark. After all, keeping things simple is the name of the game.

Extras include: music videos, a short behind-the-scenes, trailers and a gallery, but by far the most worthy special feature is the very enthusiastic commentary by Page. It's almost worth the cost by itself.

Ty Power