|Movie: The Fields
Studio: Breaking Glass Pictures
Directors: Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni
Length: 100 Minutes
Genres: Drama / Mystery (Not Horror)
Plot: Supposedly based on true events and set in Pennsylvania in 1973, “The Fields” is about a young couple who are having terrible fights, so they send their young son to stay at his grandparents’ farm while they try to work things out. But the boy isn’t any safer on the farm, because there is something or someone out in the cornfields terrorizing the grandparents.
Review: First question: Why am I reviewing a non-horror film on the Horror Palace Network? Answer: Solely because horror fans won’t be misled into renting this film under the false notion that it’s a horror flick. “The Fields” has a horror-suggesting trailer, and it has played at a couple of horror film festivals, but it’s a drama and a mystery, with a few thriller elements; there are no horror elements whatsoever. But “The Fields” has its moments, nonetheless, so please read on.
Having noted everything above, “The Fields” is a mildly creepy little oddity of the cinema. I think cornfields are inherently freaky — thanks to “Children of the Corn” (1984). “The Fields” has moments of potential that it never fleshes out, but the fact that the moments exist in the first place is an achievement: For example, the foul-mouthed grandmother (Cloris Leachman) frequently and adamantly instructs the boy (Joshua Ormond) to stay out of the cornfields. And when she says this, her reasoning is as follows: “We don’t want to have to come lookin’ for ya, and find you all dead and black and swollen up.” Each time she delivers this same line, she says it creepier than the previous time. We’re certain this set-up is going to pay off later on, but it never does.
And really, the masterstroke of “The Fields” is a subtle statement that the horrors of the outside world are often not much worse than the horrors we experience within the supposed sanctuary of our own lives. We watch the boy in this movie witness disturbing scenes, which seem to be commonplace in his childhood. For instance, there’s a scene that takes place with a few of the kid’s degenerate relatives in a basement where they hack the head off a live chicken just for laughs. This reminded me of a similarly gruesome scene that my mother once witnessed as a child, and she still speaks of it to this day as something that scarred her childhood mind.
Granted, “The Fields” obviously wasn’t aiming to be a horror film, but if writer Harrison Smith had embellished the horrific depictions of the “outside world’s” characters — such as the mystery assailant(s), then we might have had a unique mystery that doubled as a legitimate horror flick. I’ll cite two quick examples for this point: First, the boy discovers a dead girl lying in the cornfields, but the murder happens offscreen, long before we encounter the corpse. Second, there are frequent news reports of the Manson family’s murderous exploits — particularly the murder of actress Sharon Tate from four years earlier — but none of this is depicted.
Though it seems like I’m being overly critical of “The Fields,” there is something major that it does exactly right: Just because these filmmakers had a minimal budget doesn’t mean they commissioned minimal acting talent. I have to give credit to the directors and Colleen Kay, who oversaw the casting for this film. Even though most of their faces aren’t overly recognizable, the quality of the actors’ performances is. The aforementioned Cloris Leachman was in “Young Frankenstein” (1974), and the lovely Tara Reid (“Urban Legend,” 1998) plays the boy’s mother. I have often wondered why low-budget films don’t just get very selective when choosing their no-name acting talent. What have they got to lose? Is it better to cast lesser-known actors who can’t act — or lesser-known actors who will deliver great performances. For the most part, “The Fields” is uncommon in that it does the latter.
In conclusion, for most Horror Palace Network listeners and readers who are strictly looking for horror films, I’m rating “The Fields” a 4.5 and telling you to avoid it. But for those who are willing to watch other genres and appreciate unusual indie films, then I’d suggest checking out “The Fields.” The film’s destination is obvious all along, and therefore, unsatisfying. But like most things in life, the joy is in the journey.
For those who are interested, “The Fields” is currently available at Redbox (listed as a “Drama”), Netflix, and Blockbuster.com, but again, I’m recommending that viewers who are strictly looking for horror to avoid it.
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| Reviewer: Jay of the Dead
DVD: Breaking Glass Pictures.com
BluRay: Breaking Glass Pictures.com
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