The Locals (2003)

Director Greg Page
Writer Greg Page
Starring John Barker, Dwayne Cameron, Kate Elliot, Aidee Walker, Paul Glover, Peter McCauley
Genre Revenant
Tagline They're dying to meet you.

Talk us through it

Grant's girlfriend has broken up with him because he didn't like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. The dude is wallowing in self pity and has taken to his bed, which is about what we would expect from a JAFA. His best mate Paul has other ideas and drags Grant's sorrow arse out of bed and into a road trip to a remote beach for some drinking, surfing, and sun.

Paul naturally knows a short cut, which involves a closed bridge late at night. Clearly neither lad has ever seen a horror movie before in their lives. While arguing about taking the road less travelled they meet Lisa and Kelly who ask if they are going to "the party". Naturally enough of course they are going to "the party" and we have one of the more bizarre car chases in modern movie making as Paul and Grant try to keep up with the girls' car. Speeding and drinking folks, let this be a salient lesson for you, it always ends in tears, especially if you are out in the boonies. Paul crashes the car into a ditch and our duo of urbanites is left looking for some help from the local farming community.

Paul and Grant come across a farmhouse and unfortunately are in the wrong place at the wrong time as they witness a murder. As expected the boys are soon fleeing for their lives as "the locals" decide to tie up some loose ends. But is everything as it seems?

Ready to go bush Kiwi style?


"A good farm needs much tending son" - Bill

Greg Page, here debuting in the Director's chair, presents a pretty intriguing concept and manages to raise his movie above the level one would normally associate with the demonstratively limited budget he has at hand. You aren't going to be watching a whole bunch of special effects or post shooting CGI going down here. Page is filming a movie as it should be shoot in his particular genre, relying on a creepy build, atmospherics, and emotional commitment from the Audience. This isn't a tired Boredwood production made to entice a few more bucks from inner city tweens, this is a fair dinkum horror movie made for people who appreciate what the dark genre can strive for. How does the young Kiwi film maker do?

Director Page launches his movie with a mystery to keep the Audience happily involved in. You are trying to work out just what the hell is going on through the first half of the film as Page leads you down the garden path. We get an excellent use of aerial shots to establish we aren't in Kansas, or Auckland for that matter, anymore. We're in the New Zealand rural landscape. Page interlaces his aerial shots with static views of decayed pieces of machinery and rundown houses slowly losing the fight to decay. It's picturesque, at the same time bleak, and clearly the region is thinly populated. Excellent use of quite an eerie score to give the Audience some early foreboding. During the course of our aerial surveillance of the Kiwi countryside we have noted a farmer driving his tractor across just another non-descript paddock, surprisingly devoid of farm animals. Page closes in on the farmer as he stops his tractor, hops off, and starts frantically digging into what is clearly a grave. A mysterious figure comes up behind our farmer and without pause slits his throat, and drops the farmer into the grave. Page will muddy the waters before the meaning of this scene becomes apparent late in the movie.

Without giving the Audience a pause to consider just what they have just seen Page cuts to downtown Auckland and introduces his two central characters, Paul and Grant. We get to know them, witness their commradery, and are gradually lead back to the hinterland as day gives way to night. It's a convincing enough opening gambit and Page differentiates the urban from the rural both visually and via the audio. There's a pretty good soundtrack going down throughout the movie, in particular enjoyed hearing some more from the Datsuns.

Page dials up the natural fear urban kiwis have of the remote hinterland in a similar manner to the approach taken by Australian genre film makers with the outback.

What follows is a pretty good scripting effort from Greg Page as the Audience wonder exactly what movie they are in for during the middle block of the film. At stages I was thinking Killbilly, circa The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, maybe a revenant thing happening, or some of that old black magic. Page surprisingly keeps it under wraps till right near the final act and even at this stage he's not about to put all his cards face up on the table. If you are one of those people who needs a movie to explain it's plot to the nth degree then you are out of luck here. Page is not overly concerned about giving us the background, he's simply telling us what happened.

For a lot of viewers the most troubling aspect of Page's movie is the lightening used during the night scenes, that comprise the majority of the film's story arc. The movie has been shot out in the boonies and without the budget to get a major lightening system underway. Page's team have resorted to using honking bright lights to highlight the foreground action. This approach is going to either work for you or not work for you depending on your personal definition of how realistic a movie should be. If Tarantino had of lobbed a movie lighted like this onto our screens no doubt he would have been viewed as a genius for taking a risk. Anyways it was working like a brought thing for mine and brought to mind some of the techniques the German impressionists were using way back early last century. The lighting technique in use have the effect of bringing an immediacy to the action, a forced focus on the foreground, and a pretty effective claustrophobic feeling to things considering we are in the bush. Page really nails the effect with a prowling camera and some of the best use of POV from out of the darkness that I've seen in quite sometime. But what the hey if it doesn't work for you frack off and watch a Boredwood flick.

Page keeps things on the simmer through the middle and ending blocks of the movie by having a set goal for the main characters, who actually don't know what that goal is till late in the game. Naturally things become more complex as the movie moves towards it's resolution, and there always seems to be something just round the corner that will hamper an easy solution to the current situation. It's all pretty engrossing, and Director Page shots with an urgency to keep things moving.

Special mention of some scenes toward the end of the movie, Page really hit the Romero Night of the Living Dead feel there and I was giving a standard ovation to the dude.

John Barker (Grant) looked at stages nervous in front of the camera but keeps it altogether till the final scene in a performance that gives you the idea that Barker is going to get a lot better as his career develops. Dwayne Cameron (Paul) gets the punch lines, promotes the chemistry between the two male leads, and otherwise does his reputation no harm at all. Kate Elliot (Kelly) and Aidee Walker (Lisa) provide the eye candy but otherwise really don't hit anything through the posts for a major. Not entirely sure if that wasn't due to their characters having limited development or not.

Victoria Kelly provided a pretty sensation score that hit the 'e' in eerie. Kelly is matching Page's visuals and her work with the baton gives The Locals a pretty decent otherworldly feel.

Summary Execution

The Locals is clearly not likely to be a classic anytime soon but can hold it's head up due to a unique approach to things and a pretty engrossing plot. I was caught up in things from the prologue scene and was grooving along to the various directions the movie goes in. Got to love a movie that not only delivers a mystery to solve but also respects it's audience who aren't all brain dead tweens. Looking at you Sam Raimi. I got my money worth and dug into some of the chills Director Page sent my way.

Besides appearing in a number of film festivals both Down Under and up North The Locals didn't enjoy a solid cinema run in the major markets. It's done pretty well in a number of Asian markets and I'm not seeing a lot of copies of the DVD in the sales bins. Over all solid results.

If you want to try a horror flick that's coming at you with a slightly different approach then I would highly recommend The Locals. Director/Writer Page goes for more of a traditionalist view of what a dark genre movie should be doing and over all succeeds in what he has happening. Take a trip to the hinterland and see what you can dig up.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

Worth a look if you enjoy quiet horror flicks that go about their business without trying to hammer the audience into submission.