The horror genre hates vacationers. Every time someone goes away for the weekend in a horror film, they’re invariably accosted by murderous country bumpkins, asylum escapees in masks, or hideous flesh-eating mutants. Charlie Steeds’ THE BARGE PEOPLE spins the wheel of slasher villains and lands on the latter, which he throws at his protagonists with nostalgic glee.
THE BARGE PEOPLE is set around the canals of the British countryside. A pair of unsuspecting sisters and their boyfriends arrive for a luxurious barge vacation, but things are quickly ruined by a bunch of cannibalistic mutant fish men who troll the waterways for human meat.
Director Steeds leaves no doubt about what goal his film is aiming for. From the Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired opening (replete with camera flashes and sounds) to its synth score, THE BARGE PEOPLE is completely in debt to the slasher flicks of yore. Even the font used in the opening credits is old school. Down to the little details, this is a loving homage.
It’s not easy to find a setting for a slasher that hasn’t been done before. We know the staples all too well: summer camps, cabins in the woods, suburban landscapes packed with babysitters to disembowel… It’s tough to give us a setting that we haven’t seen a million times, but Steeds has managed to find a relatively fresh location for his mayhem. I’ve never seen a horror film take place within the… uh… world of barges, so right off the bat, he has my attention.
The quaint British canals and their lush, green surroundings are a welcome change from just about anything else the genre has to offer. However, things become a little more familiar when the sun sets within the film, and its Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn inspired mutants start running around and murdering everyone in sight.
When it comes to films like these, the air of familiarity is more forgivable to me as long as there’s plenty of gruesome gore to keep my interest. While there’s enough red stuff (and other shades of fluid) squirting around the place, there’s not really much in the way of gore, and we never actually see flesh being cleaved in graphic detail. It seems the budget didn’t extend much beyond the mutant makeups, which are admittedly impressive for a less expensive flick like this one. They’re well done, and there doesn’t seem to be a CGI effect in sight, so thumbs partially up.
The writing is pretty much what you’d expect, with characters that clearly attended the same schools of survival that your classic 80’s protagonists did back in the golden age of the slasher. They split up, investigate loud noises in the dark, and generally do the best they can to get themselves slaughtered.
When the fish men actually show up, the movie goes adequately bonkers, but at that point you realize there’s not much time left as the story unravels. It’s very short, sitting at around 75 minutes pre-credits. This is a meat and potatoes slasher film, nothing more. But then again, it doesn’t try to be anything beyond its promise. Steeds obviously loves the genre, and if you’re looking for a basic backwoods slasher, then he delivers with THE BARGE PEOPLE. And on that note, how great is the title? THE BARGE PEOPLE. THE BAAAAARGE PEOPLE… Say it out loud a bunch of times. How fun is that?