Grant’s girlfriend has just broken up with him, so his mate Paul convinces him to go on a surfing trip. Unfortunately finding the coast is apparently not the easiest of things, so they wind up trying to take a short cut over an apparently closed bridge late at night. There they meet Lisa & Kelly, who ask them if they’re going to “the party”. Obviously they can’t say no, & wind up chasing the girls car across the countryside. But after a near miss accident in the dark, they seek help at a nearby cottage. Before they know it they’re being chased by a posse of locals, who seem intent on making them dead.
At first, The Locals looks as though it’s going to be a standard goofy teen horror flick. You’ve got a couple of good-looking, wisecracking city guys who are out to drink, party & surf, who take a Wrong Turn & wind up being chased by a load of scary & possibly inbred locals. It’s something of a relief to discover then that The Locals takes great delight in playing with audiences expectations, & turns out to actually be a rather more interesting & lingering tale. However, if you approach the film expecting a more visceral Hills Have Eyes-type experience you will be disappointed, for ultimately The Locals is more creepy & atmospheric, built around an oddly compelling sense of dislocated time, & with a surprisingly emotional twist.
It makes The Locals a rather tricky film to review, as much of the pleasure of watching the film comes from trying to figure out what direction it will be taking next – the film enjoys playing with your expectations & tries hard not to move in predictable circles. Spoilers are best avoided for this one, as the film does play less satisfactorily second time around once you know exactly what is going on. As such this is a film I probably won’t be purchasing, but it’s a good strong rental.
Much of the film takes place at night in the middle of nowhere, which obviously makes great problems when it comes to lighting. The solution the makers have come up with is to simply use whopping great big white lights to illuminate the foreground action. But it gets to the point where you can’t help but wondering where on earth this utterly unmotivated light is coming from which makes the foreground super bright, when everything in the background is pitch black. It can perhaps be argued that there is a motivation for having great pools of white light following the characters as the repeatedly wander about the landscape, but it’s not hard to think that the film has lost something in the way of atmosphere along the way - & since this is a essentially an atmospheric tale, that does hurt the film. To make up for this to a certain extent, composer Victoria Kelly contributes a wonderfully eerie & ethereal score.
Ultimately The Locals is no classic, but it’s different & inventive enough to stand out from the crowd & make it worth investigating. It never quite gets to be as good as it often looks as though it’s going to be, but it’s fractured world-view is weirdly captivating, & it does deliver some moody chills for its money.
The UK DVD from Mosaic is R2/PAL, & comes with a good strong anamorphic 1.85:1 picture, & Dolby 5.1 or 2.0 audio. An decent extras package includes a directors commentary, which is interesting if a touch dry, a making of “Finish the Job” which features some cool behind the scenes footage & interviews, two music videos (by The D4 & 8 Foot Sativa), plus trailer, filmos & photo gallery. Overall, not too shabby a haul, although this is likely to be surpassed by AB’s currently forthcoming R1 release.