I never thought I'd like anything that featured any sort of involvement from Limp Bizkit singer, Fred Durst, but then along comes Population 436. An involving and suspenseful thriller cut from the same cloth as films like The Wicker Man, 2000 Maniacs, and, well, just about any other paranoid fable about small town life, Population 436 is a direct-to-DVD release that stands shoulder to shoulder with a good amount of the horror flicks that actually made it to the multiplex this year.
Jeremy Sisto stars as Steve Cady, a government census worker sent to the small town of Rockwell Falls. When he arrives, he is almost instantly embraced by the community - especially deputy Bobby Caine (Durst), and Bobby's true love (so he thinks) Courtney (Sullivan). As Steve starts taking the census, he is surprised to discover that the previous year's census indicates that the population of Rockwell Falls was also 436, as was the year before, and the year before that. As a matter of fact, the town's population hasn't changed since the 19th century. As Steve digs deeper, he discovers that there are townsfolk who are unaccounted for, a mysterious malady known only as "the fever", and a genuine sense that once you step foot in Rockwell Falls, you may never leave.
Population 436 is a low-budget flick with made-for-cable production values, but that doesn't detract from the film's potent storyline and strong lead performance by the always reliable Sisto. The real surprise here is Fred Durst, though, as he turns in a very nice performance as the naive Bobby, and lends his character a sense of innate sadness and innocence that...well...one wouldn't expect from the same guy who sang the "Nookie" song. I bought the chemistry between Bobby and Steve-O, and, when Steve betrays Bobby's trust after a tryst with the lovely Courtney, Bobby's confusion/devastation is palpable. The supporting cast is surprisingly solid, with the gorgeous Sullivan making for a fetching and tragic love interest for Steve.
Sony opts to release this one au natural, which is a nice way of saying featureless. You do get a featurette's worth of trailers for other Sony releases, as well as the usual select-a-scene and audio options.