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It is the late 1890's in the town of Black River Falls, Wisconsin and everything is going to hell. There is a diphtheria epidemic that wipes out the children and a long lasting economic depression. Soon after, many of the residents lost their grip on reality and commit suicide and murder in some bizarre and startling ways. James Marsh's documentary pulls the viewer in with these macabre tales and underscores them with color reenactments of some of the events. These reenactments, however, tend to take away from the mysteriousness of the story and keep reminding us that we are over a century away from this event and this is, after all, just a documentary. If only Marsh had kept it all black and white and interspersed more of the real photographs of the townspeople (Black River Falls had its own resident photographer), then it might seem more eerie. It also raises the question that this might not have been that unusual during this period of time in rural America. Black River Falls just happened to have well documented these events. Still, as a reflection of a time when life was hard and times were tough, Marsh succeeds in finding some truly strange occurrences. It's almost as if a curse was placed on this one small town. Iam Holm narrates and his foreboding voice is perfect.
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