Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #19 – The Fields (2011)

Join Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Netflix Roulette!

rsz_1the_fields_posterTitle: The Fields

Year: 2011

Director: Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni

Starring: Tara Reid, Cloris Leachman, Joshua Ormand, Brian Anthony Wilson

Netflix Rating: 2.5 stars

Seen it before: No

First Impressions: OK according to the description an evil presence lurks in the cornfields of a young boy’s grandparents farm… So we’ll find out. But, full disclosure- I love me a haunted farmhouse. OK, I’m a sucker for anything haunted. It says ‘based on true events’ which means it will either be decent or awful. There doesn’t seem to be much in between when it comes to ‘true happenings’ films. And the rating doesn’t bode well…

The Verdict: Well it turned out to be exactly what I didn’t want it to be. A mish-mash of genres, thriller, coming of age, and general WTFery. The fact that it’s disconcerting in the least can be chalked up to some music and an inbred clan of hillbillies living in their mother’s basement (who literally occupy ONE scene- the one uncanniest scene in the entire movie). Otherwise it’s a big fat lot of absolutely nothing happening.

rsz_the_fields_1And no. There is no haunting. Nothing ghostly, and the ‘evil presence’ is a big fat over sell, it’s really just a crazy local and some drifter hippies, and all the action takes place off screen anyway, so you never really find out for sure what’s happening. Why anyone thought this would be a good basis for a movie I have no idea. The problem with films like The Field, is false advertising. Well, that and it’s just not very good. But still- just be honest. Don’t get our hopes up for one thing and deliver something else. This is NOT a horror film. It’s not even really trying to be a horror film. It’s more of an ill-conceived drama.

In 1973 young Steven (Ormand), is sent to live with his grandparents for a time while his mother (Tara Reid) tries to work out her combative relationship with Steven’s father. The grandparents are played by Cloris Leachman and Tom McCarthy. They provide much of the comic relief in the film as they bicker and cuss each other out. There sort of needs to be an entire film of nothing but Cloris Leachman yelling obscenities off-screen. Steven, meanwhile, grows obsessed with grandpa’s cornfields and the Manson Family Murders. Coverage of the murder trial is running constantly on the TV, and Steven keeps asking uncomfortable questions about Charles Manson that his grandparents struggle to answer.

The setting of 1973 is used very well, and provides a milieu of evil hippies, social turbulence and pop-culture references. The sets and costumes are fantastically done and The Fields looks and feels like it was made in the 70s, right down to the film grain. It’s perhaps the films greatest achievement.

rsz_the_fields_2The acting deserves some mention. Not because the performances are terrible, but because they are decent for a B-movie. No one is absolutely terrible, not even Tara Reid. Sadly though, the actors just don’t have much to do aside from walk from place to place looking serious.

The few plusses it offers up can’t disguise the fact that there is very little plot and almost no attempt to craft a story that invests viewers.

Rating: 4/10

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse (2015) Review

ScoutsGuideZombieApocalypse_posterSCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (2015)

Director: Christopher Landon

Stars: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Halston Sage, Niki Koss, Cloris Leachman

UK Cinema Release: 6th November by Paramount.

Ben (Tye Sheridan) and Carter (Logan Miller) are part of a tiny scout troop, led by Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner). Long-term members, they have lost interest in scouting, instead finding themselves more into the opposite sex.

Ben has an unrequited crush on Carter’s older sister Kendall (Halston Sage) while Carter lusts after her vacuous pal Chloe (Niki Koss). But — despite their misgivings — the two have felt unable to quit the troop due to their friendship with earnest Augie (Joey Morgan). However, on the day of a camping trip to celebrate Augie earning his coveted Condor patch, the other two receive an invite to a party that Kendall and her friends will be attending.

That evening things don’t go to plan when first Scout Leader Rogers doesn’t show, then Augie catches the pair sneaking off. Heartbroken, he tells them to leave. But, as a deadly virus rips through the town, all three boys find their survival skills pushed to the limit…

scouts1Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is the latest entry in the zomcom sub-genre. Now, unlike some horror-comedies that forget to actually be funny, Scouts Guide is hilarious.

From the opening scene in which a cleaner mimes and dances along to Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora’s Black Widow to some sidesplitting dialogue and some truly gross humour, this is a film that brings the laughs. However, I know there are people out there who will find the gratuitous T&A and bawdier elements puerile. If you enjoyed American Pie, you’ll dig this. If, however, gross-out comedies are not your thing, you may want to skip it.

Having a funnyman like Koechner doesn’t harm the film’s comedy-cred, but it’s not just the Anchorman star that delivers. The three young leads are excellent, each capturing the essence of their character (Sheridan’s Ben is the nice one, Miller’s Carter is the smart-alec, while Morgan’s Augie is the earnest nerd). Each is superb and all three are given their moments to shine, especially during the bloody climax.

scouts2What’s more, the striking Sarah Dumont shows acting chops to match her looks as she delivers a strong performance as Denise, the no-nonsense cocktail waitress that regularly saves the boys’ skins, even if hers isn’t the strongest arc. Elsewhere the wonderful Leachman ratchets up the laughs with a memorable turn as Carter’s crotchety cat-lady neighbour.

Of course the cast are only as funny as the material they’re given to work with. The writing team of director Christopher Landon (whose writing credits include the Paranormal Activity franchise), Emi Mochizuki and Carrie Evans, scripting Lona Williams’ story, do a fantastic job, coming up with some ace set pieces.

However, the script isn’t so shallow as to just give us a series of jokes — it also boasts some nice moments of real heart, most notably in the scenes exploring the friendship between the Ben, Carter and Augie. That Landon and his cinematographer Brandon Trost keeps the footage of the boys’ antics so eye-popping throughout is a real bonus, especially during the aforementioned kick-ass climactic battle and some frenetic chase sequences. This is an area in which many horror-comedies fall short, but Scouts Guide keeps the action exciting and, as is so important in the post Walking Dead zombie-movie landscape, the effects work is top notch, giving us some memorable zombies.

scouts3I’m loathe to spoil the finest moments here but suffice to say one zombie with a particularly gruesome facial injury at the heart of a hideous (and hilarious) set piece late on in the movie was especially horrible. Credit must go to Jared Baker’s crew, the folks at Atomic Fiction and everybody else who delivered the fantastic effects of the film. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is great fun — Superbad meets Zombieland. It combines a talented cast with some superb visuals and plenty of gross-out humour. It may not quite hit the heights of zomcom classics like Shaun of the Dead and the aforementioned Zombieland, but it is still a fine movie.