The Austin Chronicle

The Barge People

Not rated, 78 min. Directed by Charlie Steeds. Starring Kate Davies-Speak, Mark McKirdy, Makenna Guyler, Natalie Martins, Matt Swales, Kane Surry, Emma Spurgin Hussey, Carl Andersson, David Lenik, Sam Lane.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Tue., Aug. 18, 2020

Film noir, the saying goes, is about bad people doing bad things for good reasons. Schlock, by the same logical process, is about dumb people doing idiotic things for stupid reasons, and then getting maimed, dismembered, disemboweled or, in the case of The Barge People, eaten.

The British monster flick at least finds an interesting new location that seems pretty untouched by horror cinema: the network of canals that crisscross the countryside, and are best navigated by the classic narrow boat. That's what affable Kat (Davies-Speak) and her outdoorsy boyfriend, Mark (McKirdy, rent for the weekend for a getaway, with her sister, Sophie (Martins), and her irksome other half, Ben (Swales), in tow. Every single one of them is annoying at some level or other: Kat has the personality of a fence post, Sophie can't see that Ben is a (as the deeply judgy Mark witheringly comments), a massive cock, and well, Ben is indeed a massive cock. In under a day, they manage to annoy a rural pub owner, a couple who live full-time on their own barge, and a clan of inbred, cannibalistic, aquatic yokels who look like corpses that have been soaking in the stream for too long.

The Barge People isn't good in any classical way, but it is idiotic and mercifully undemanding fun. Every character is such a massive moron - even obvious final girl Kat, who has a spectacular knack of running to save her friends about a minute too late - that it's hard to be upset when they reach their inevitable fate. The rubber-mask monsters are indestructible right up to the point where they need to be readily dispatched. And the vague vestiges of a eco-subplot (something something goo in the water something something) are barely a ripple in the surface of this gooey mess: in fact, the whole plot is so paper-thin and overstretched that, if you removed all the tedious shots of characters screaming at some unseen threat, all the ineffectual wrestling with the beasties, and the lengthy scene of the canal boat going through water locks, there's scarcely a feature film here. Really, it's all about a lot of screaming, a few low-budget gore effects, and some mildly entertaining and bloody kills. It's a pure pizza-and-beer movie, even if you may not need to look up from your pizza much to get the gist. It's schlock, but at least it knows it.

The Barge People is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD now.

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