Main cast: Kate Davies-Speak (Kat), Mark McKirdy (Mark), Makenna Guyler (Jade), Natalie Martins (Sophie), Matt Swales (Ben), Kane Surry (Ricky), and Emma Spurgin Hussey (Rosemary)
Director: Charlie Steeds
The Barge People is an UK export from folks determined to show the world that US doesn’t have the sole monopoly on inbred, cannibalistic hillbillies. This is also one of those movies from a studio that have what seems like a staple of actors that appear with regularity in a bulk of their output. Don’t expect some eye-rolling cringe fest like some Troma flick, though, as this one boasts some pretty good production values for a movie of a low budget.
Naturally, we have another stable of idiots deciding to head off to some countryside for a vacation. There are the sisters Kat and Sophie, along with Kat’s boyfriend Mark and Sophie’s obnoxious new boyfriend Ben. While any sane person would have hightailed it back to the delightful pleasures of urban living after encouraging the bizarre barkeep Rosemary and the abrasive couple Jade and Ricky, these four persist in renting a barge in order to, I don’t know, feel like Robinson Crusoe or something, I guess. It takes a while, but soon the creatures on the movie poster—inbreds that resemble the fish-men worshipers of Dagon and a Claymation version of a Star Trek alien—start to assault the quartet. They don’t want money, they just want flesh, human flesh, to dine on.
The third act of this movie is exactly why I watch films like this: there is plenty of gore, all done with practical effects, and cheerful sadism that would be right at home in the Wrong Turn and The Hills Have Eyes franchises. While the movie does make some concessions to present-day, more politically correct (for the want of a better term) tropes, it is also cheerfully unapologetic when it comes to putting its main characters through the perpetual meat grinder. Guts fly, faces get gnawed on… this is exactly what it wants to be, and I am not complaining one bit about that.
I do have many complaints about the human characters though. Okay, Ben exists to be a big twat, but Sophie is a likable character that ends up having absolutely nothing to do at all in the movie. Why even have her here? Did the people behind the movie owe the actress a gig or something? Then there are the two main characters that I am supposed to root for, Mark and Kat. Here are two bland and completely forgettable characters that I can’t even muster any emotion for.
Okay, I do feel that they are idiots, especially Kat, who is just horrible all around as a heroine I’m supposed to be rooting for. She’s a moron, the kind that stops in the middle of a frantic fleeing from the monsters to start a fight with Jade on completely irrelevant matters such as whether Kat really understands how hard it is to have lost so many people she cares for. Seriously, these people seem to be more melodramatic than sensible, and I end up thinking that they are better off being food, as it’s not like they are of any use otherwise. Still, it’s not like I am rooting for these people; rather, I just don’t care one way or the other.
The hillbillies are tad disappointing, as they are nowhere as memorable as, say, the ones in the Wrong Turn franchise. They are just kind of there. Their fantastic appearance aside, these hillbillies don’t have much stage presence at all. In fact, they don’t seem to have many distinctive traits for me to distinguish one from another. The more human-looking villains are far more terrifying here, and even then, their screen time is so short that they don’t make as much impact as they could have.
The biggest problem of The Barge People, though, is that for way too much of the movie, it focuses on the boring antics of our four main characters. It’s not like I’m subjected to deep character development or interesting interpersonal conflicts during these moments. Instead, I get tedious one-dimensional characters acting like boring twats. Jade ends up being the most interesting of the human lot, if I have to pick a “favorite”, but even she turns into a blithering moron later on.
From a technical point of view, perhaps this movie deserves something more of a three-oogie rating, as the gore is pretty good. However, both the so-called good guys and the monsters are unmemorable and unremarkable. I would have been bloody bored out of my mind if the gore weren’t here, and indeed, I am bored whenever there is no gore. I guess this movie demonstrates that gore can only go so far—a good gory film still needs memorable characters and villains!