November 7, 2010 -- This is a low-budget Hitchcockian horror film (shot in 18 days for $250,000, according to Wikipedia) about a mild-mannered, charming, polite, clean-cut psychopath who wanders into a small idyllic rural town and proceeds to spread discontent and dissension using a public access TV show. This is followed by murder and the destruction of the town. The director of this film, Bryan Singer, has since become a Hollywood A-List power, with the critically-acclaimed “The Usual Suspects” and the hugely successful “X-Men” films to his credit. This, his first film, is much more personal and much more disturbing.
The mysterious Whiley Pritcher (played by the late Ron Marquette, who died a year after this film was released) comes walking into the town of Brewster and rents a room from Bob Hodges, former town mayor and self-proclaimed oldest living former town official. Whiley goes to the local library where he does extensive research on the town and meets friendly librarian Rachel (Dina Brooks). He arranges to host a talk show, “Our Town,” on the local cable access channel, where he sits in front of the camera and asks “What's wrong with Brewster?” The show is a hit as people call in with petty complaints about each other and get into arguments. Soon, however, darker matters begin to come to light about political corruption and conflicts of interest that may threaten the very existence of the town. Pritcher becomes a local celebrity.
Whiley Pritcher, polite, well-spoken and charming, becomes Rachel's lover. Rachel doesn't notice that Whiley is subtly manipulating her, and the rest of the town. Pritcher's motives are not clear, since he seems to be defending the town's leaders, while he helps to destroy the town at the same time. It is as if Pritcher wants to believe in the myth of Brewster as a perfect town, and is willing to kill people to preserve that myth. Once he finds that the town is not perfect, then he loses interest in the town and moves on. That is why he is obsessed with the question “What's wrong with Brewster.” He is at once the town's defender and its destroyer.
The film raises a lot of troubling questions which remain unanswered. What made Pritcher the way he is? What are his motives? Where does he get his money (he doesn't have a job)? Why does he ask for the truth, but then kill someone who is trying to tell him the real truth about what is wrong with Brewster? While these are mysteries, some things are very clear. Whiley Pritcher is about as pure evil as you are going to see on the screen, on a par with the characters Roat in “Wait Until Dark” and Harry Powell in “The Night of the Hunter.” He is a murderous psychopath, who seems harmless at first. People are drawn to him as moths to a flame. Ron Marquette achieves a high level of creepiness in this performance and the acting is quite good all around. Singer shows his skill as a director, even though he had little experience at this point in his career. He also co-wrote the screenplay.
Upon reflection, “Our Town” reminds me of other talk shows, hosted by the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, men who seem to have the best motives, and seem reasonable, who defended the Bush Administration while America self-destructed. Just as fiercely as they defended Bush, they attack the Obama Administration as it tries to clean up the mess left behind by Bush. Meanwhile, they spread divisiveness, fear and anger as America, like Brewster, falls apart, becoming ever more divided and its people ever more selfish and hard-hearted. But then again, Whiley Pritcher is a psychopath. I'm sure the guys at Fox News and their fellow travelers have very pure motives and good intentions. Trust them. This film rates a C+.
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