THE BARGE PEOPLE (2018)
aka MUTANT RIVER
Directed by Charlie Steeds
Written by Christopher Lombard
Starring Kate Davies-Speak, Mark McKirdy, Makenna Guyler, Natalie Martins, Matt Swales, Kane Surry, Emma Spurgin Hussey, Tim Cartwright, Carl Andersson, David Lenik, Barrington De La Roche, Sam Lane, Harrison Nash
Find out more about this film here!!
While THE BARGE PEOPLE has some pretty keen retro-window dressing, the plot and script get in the way of keeping this film afloat.
When a group of people rent a barge for the weekend to slowly cruise down an English canal (because that’s a think, I guess). Upon renting the barge, the shipman warns in true “Crazy Ralph” style to keep to the center and don’t go wandering off into the heavily forested areas on either side. Turns out the polluted stream has caused some of the river people to mutate into bloodthirsty, cannibal monsters and our quartet of weekenders are floating right towards them.
So basically this is THE HILLS HAVE EYES on a boat or THE RIVER HAVE EYES. Two couples are dealing with their own issues while they come across another family of monsters that are out to kill them. The two couples on vacation represent the best and worst of modern relationships. One pair are affectionate and totally in sync, while the other are disconnected and delusional about their relationship. These are nice little thematic touches that get expanded upon when the barge accidentally scrapes the barge of what is the UK canal version of trailer park trash and that couple ends up having a grudge against the high-class city folk. All three couples end up colliding, but before they can settle their differences, the monsters converge, who represent their own kind of family. These are themes that are deftly handled in Wes Craven’s classic and is a valid attempt to add thematic heft to THE BARGE PEOPLE.
There are some concepts that I really liked. I’m a sucker for cannibal family flicks, so it takes a lot to turn me off. I liked the structure of this monster family and the detailed way they all work together to feed their habits. The plot gets in the way of THE BARGE PEOPLE and in order to deliver the gory horrors, it feels like this film wasn’t thought all the way through. Too many times people are freezing and not doing anything until it is time for them to act again. The action takes place in a very small space with six people battling it out in a few small compartments of the barge interior. But while two people are battling for their lives, others are simply standing there and screaming. This occurs numerous times as it is clear that the filmmakers don’t consider the cramped space and instead of dealing with it logically, they treat the main action scene as if it were taking place in a much larger and spread out space.
While the monsters look pretty good and I do like the detail that they bleed swamp water rather than blood, they don’t really make a lot of sense. These monsters are supposed to be coming from the canal, but they are all wearing bulky clothes, trench coats, and combat boots. That’s not necessarily ideal swimming gear. The fact that some of them talk really ruined the look of the monsters as the masks don’t really have the articulation to move their lips and jaws to speak, so there’s an original PLANET OF THE APES vibe to their facial expressions. The mutation only seems to affect the faces, giving all the barge people a look as if they are simply wearing big masks. Also, it is unclear how these guys go unnoticed by the regular populace. The trailer barge family seem to be locals but are completely surprised to encounter these monsters. There are also some twists that occur late in the film that really don’t work and feel more like direct lifts from better slasher films.
I did really like the retro-vibe of the original few minutes of THE BARGE PEOPLE. Even the font used, and the choppy editing put a smile on my face during the opening moments. But as the film went on, it felt like it simply lost steam and was barely able to make it over the finish line with some sloppy scripting and uninspired decisions.