Actors: Jeremy Sisto, Fred Durst, Charlotte Sullivan
Directors: Michelle MacLaren
Writers: Michael Kingston
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: September 5, 2006
Run Time: 92 minutes
Steve Kady, a US Census Bureau researcher is sent to the remote and seemingly idyllic village of Rockwell Falls to interview residents concerning the population. On the way to Rockwell Falls he is distracted by a woman falling off a horse and his vehicle hits a pothole and bursts two tires. He is eventually picked up by Bobby Caine, the Sheriff's Deputy, who drives him into Rockwell Falls and helps him find a place to stay.
During his stay, Kady notices a number of increasingly strange things about the town, people acting awkward, and strange. People make vague allusions to 'the fever', and several residents treat him as though he were not just a visitor, but has moved to Rockwell Falls permanently. His research reveals that the town's population has remained at exactly 436 for over 100 years. People who try to leave Rockwell Falls seem to meet with bizarre and deadly accidents, or just vanish, which the residents believe to be the work of God. Kady also begins to have eerie dreams about a truck, a cross and a doll.
Kady becomes romantically involved with Courtney Lovett, a local woman and the daughter of his host, much to the chagrin of Caine, who is also in love with her. He also befriends Amanda, a young girl whose father was killed trying to escape the town and who is being held at Dr Greaver's clinic, on the pretext of treating her for schizophrenia. Courtney and Amanda both express a desire to leave the town, but are afraid of the consequences of trying.
After stumbling upon some books on Biblical numerology, Kady realizes that the townspeople attach a mystical importance to the number 436 and are willing to go to extreme lengths to keep the population at exactly that number, including executing surplus residents. Anyone who expresses a desire to leave is treated for the 'fever' by Dr. Greaver, the town doctor, with electroshock therapy or in extreme cases, frontal lobotomy. It gradually becomes apparent to Kady that the residents of Rockwell Falls have no intention of allowing him to leave.
This movie carries a more-than-passing parallel/allusion to Shirley Jackson's classic short story, "The Lottery", published in New Yorker Magazine, 1948. This is particularly apparent in the sequence where the resident who is to be sacrificed to keep the population down is selected by drawing a name from a box full of slips of paper on which residents have written their names. It also shares a similar theme with M. Night Shyamalan's “The Village”, and Robin Hardy's “The Wicker Man” as being a secluded small town stuck in a completely different era, both in custom and in dress.
The story also contains references to numerology, in particular Biblical numerology. The residents of Rockwell Falls believe that the word 'solidarity' has a numerological value of 13, which is also the sum of the digits of 436, the town's population (There are also 13 letters in the town's name). In Population 436, special meanings are also attributed to the individual numbers 4, 3 and 6.