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Population 436 (2006)

Director: Michelle Maxwell MacLaren
Starring: Jeremy Sisto, Charlotte Sullivan, Fred Durst
Rated R Running time: 92 minutes

A census worker named Steve Kady (Jeremy Sisto) becomes stranded in a small town with a curious feature -- year after year, the population remains at 436 people. On the surface Rockwell Falls appears to be a wholesome and happy place that seems stuck in a past era.  Rather than being won over by the town's quaint charms, Kady begins noticing some odd things about the locals -- kids singing weird religious songs and people generally acting strangely. He begins to look deeper and discovers the dark secret of Rockwell Falls -- which ends being exactly what you think it is.

Well-made and competently acted, POPULATION 436 manages to function efficiently on the technical side of things, but fails miserably in the most important aspect: the story. The film is derivative to an extraordinary degree, with the biggest debt being owed to Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." From there you can't start counting the marginal influences like THE WICKER MAN, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, and even TWO THOUSAND MANIACS, to some degree. With almost nothing new to offer, the film is not only predictable, it's forgettable, as well.

2 out of 5.

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