Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #20 – Stage Fright (2014)

rsz_stage_fright_posterChe Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #20 – Stage Fright (2014)

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!

Title: Stage Fright

Year: 2014

Director: Jerome Sable

Starring: Allie MacDonald, Douglas Smith, Meatloaf, Minnie Driver, Kent Nolan, Brandon Uranowitz

Netflix Percentage that I’ll like it (or rating): 2.4 stars. No recommendation on whether Netflix thinks I’ll like it or not.

Seen it before: No

rsz_stage_fright_1First Impressions: My deepest wish is that it will be a slasher musical. If my dreams come true that doesn’t mean it will be any good LOL! From the description it looks like a fairly standard slasher with the addition of musical theater camp. So I’m guessing it will be OK but nothing to write home about.

The Verdict: For once I was right! It IS a musical slasher film! And a darn well done one at that! It’s (unfortunately) a rare occurrence to be pleasantly surprised by a horror film these days. But Stage Fright was an entertaining romp through musical theater camp peppered with gruesome deaths and surprisingly good musical numbers.

Young Camilla and Buddy Swanson (played by Allie MacDonald and Douglas Smith) were orphaned as children when their mother, up and coming Broadway star Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) was murdered after starring in The Haunting of the Opera. Her manager Roger McCall takes the children in and raises them as his own. Camilla and Buddy now work as cooks at the theater camp Roger owns. When the camp season starts the campers embark on a production of The Haunting of the Opera, which meets the same bloody fate as the original.

rsz_stage_fright_2This musical meets slasher is original, funny, toe-tapping and gory. Pretty much everything that anyone could want in a horror film. It takes some nice twists and turns, and skewers everything from actor rivalry to skuzzy locals. Camilla is the rising ingénue, auditioning for the camp musical when she’s technically ineligible as an employee. Smelling a profit to be made though, Roger allows it. Buddy is disgusted his sister wants anything to do with show business and the snobby campers who snub them on a yearly basis.

The songs are unexpectedly good. Often a film like this has trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, and the songs will suffer. But not this time. From the opening number sung by the campers, to those from the Haunting of the Opera, they are entertaining and fun. The gore effects are decent too, and there are a number of creative deaths which befall the unlucky campers during their annual production.

rsz_stage_fright_3As great as Stage Fright is, there are a couple of small nitpicks. The masked villain has only one rock solo toward the end of the film, but they flash on him several times earlier in the movie which would have been a perfect time for a rock song about what he wanted to do to the campers. Secondly, the deaths are all loaded into the very end, during the production of The Haunting of the Opera. I expected the deaths to be spaced out, more Sleepaway Camp style. Instead, after Minnie Driver’s death at the very beginning, the story of the camp takes over, and no one dies again until the climax. The intervening story IS good, so it’s engaging, but still loses sight that this is a slasher film, and therefore requires slashing to happen.

Still, the complaints are small and the entertainment is high! Treat yourself to this unusual and hilarious mash-up.

Rating: 8/10

Charismata (2017) Review

rsz_charis1Charismata (2017)

Written & Directed by Andy Collier & Toor Mian

Starring: Sarah Beck Mather, Andonis Anthony, Jamie Satterthwaite, David J. Peel, Ethan Chapples, Johnny Vivash.

What’s it all about?

When a ritualistic serial killer strikes the streets of London a young detective finds herself struggling with her sanity, questioning what’s real and what isn’t.

Is it good?

This was a very nice surprise. With smart direction, an engaging story and a solid cast ‘Charismata’ holds the attention until the end. From the off we meet detectives Smith (Andonis Anthony) and Faraway (Sarah Rebecca Mather) on their way to a gruesome murder scene. Soon they find themselves on the hunt for a serial killer, joined by slightly bumbling duo Perkins and Lawrence (David J. Peel & Ethan Chapples). They make for a very likeable team and, if anything, we never see enough of them all.

rsz_charis2The team’s investigation leads them to Michael Sweet (Jamie Satterthwaite) a charismatic, smooth talking and cocky businessman. He’s a prime suspect, but they have no evidence and despite doubt being cast over his guilt, with other suspects popping up such as security boss Tony Dewire, a slightly wired Johnny Vivash putting in a fun performance, and Ross Mullan as Doug, a shady salesman, Faraway finds she cannot let it go, becoming more and more obsessed with the dubious Sweet. Her sense of reality starts to blur and the film undergoes a change in tone from a straight forward serial killer thriller to a study of a tormented mind. It’s not an uncomfortable change of tone, although it loses the nice interplay between the investigation team, laced with some decent humour, and leaves us with a confident and emotional performance from Mather.

With her world crumbling, Faraway’s name is never more appropriate. As the story whirls to its conclusion it’s never clear how far it will push itself and there were some genuine surprises making it a satisfying journey. It leaves a number of questions behind, but that may be part of Collier and Mian’s master plan. They have put together an entertaining low budgeter here, one which I really enjoyed.

rsz_charis3The cast put in great shifts, Andonis Anthony’s ‘Smith’ is smug, but has an affable charm, which is balanced nicely in his performance.  Mather connects well with the audience and there is a real sense of pain and anguish in her struggles. As for Jamie Satterthwaite as the prime suspect, well, he looks like he’s having the time of his life as he fills his performance with glee and menace. He is conceited and arrogant, perhaps representing the ‘one percenters’ of the real world. Sweet makes for a good villain in a film that deserves some attention to come it’s way.
Keep an eye out for it!

3.5/5

The Eyrie by Thom Burgess – Graphic Novel Review

rsz_theerrieThe Eyrie (Graphic Novel) Review

Written by Thom Burgess
Illustrated by Barney Bodoano

Available here – http://theeyrie.bigcartel.com

What’s It All About?

From the writer of Malevolents ‘Click Click’ and illustrated by the talents of Barney Bodoano comes a whole new haunting tale of terror.
‘After accepting a last minute job request from an old client, New York based photographer, Rebecca finds herself alone in one the remote parts of Britain’s South Coast. Amidst the mist swept fields and superstitious townsfolk, Rebecca will soon find out that there are worst threats than simply not finishing her job on time….’

Is it good?

I’ll be honest, I don’t read many graphic novels, in fact the last one I did read was Burgess’s Malevolents: Click Click. However, due to the quality of ‘Click Click’ I was looking forward to seeing what he would produce next. ‘Click Click’ had an old fashioned horror vibe about it, the story moved at a good pace and all in all was a very satisfying read. No pressure here then, Thom!

Fortunately, it turns out that Thom Burgess is no flash in the pan and he has again given us a story that moves along briskly and smartly, throwing in characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a seventies horror movie. We get a cool, isolated, old town setting and a heroine who is out of place. All could have collapsed into cliche, but the writing keeps it fresh, lively and interesting with Bodoano’s illustrations lending to the atmosphere. The story pulls you in and races off coming to a neat conclusion giving us some nicely crafted characters and menacing supernatural villains along the way.

Burgess is compiling a cool series of stories, all feeling grounded and all compelling. I know he has a number of projects in the works and based on his last two works I’m very much looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

By the way, ‘The Eyrie’ has a foreword penned by Reece Shearsmith. Not a bad feather to have in the cap.

A good 4/5!

Seoul Station (2016) Review

rsz_ss1SEOUL STATION (2016)

Starring Seung-ryong Ryu, Franciska Friede and Joon Lee

Written & Directed by Sang Ho-Yeon

OUT NOW on UK DVD & Blu-Ray from Studiocanal

Several groups of people try to survive a zombie pandemic that unleashes itself in downtown Seoul“.

Let’s get this out of the way. I have a confession to make.

I still haven’t seen Train to Busan.

I get it, every other horror fan in the whole entire universe has seen it and raved about it, I’ve seen the trailer and it kicks ass, and as far as I know it’s been available in the UK for a while. I just haven’t gotten round to it, I’m going to soon, I swear. Stop giving me evils. Stop the hate mail. I will watch it eventually.

“So why the hell would I want to review the prequel?” I hear you ask. Well, after a quick bit of research I discovered the animated Seoul was actually made before the live action Busan, yet released later. This is only after a google search so may not be true, but I thought this must be more than a cash in like expected, and I really wanted another good zombie movie.

rsz_ss2And let me just say, animated or not, Seoul Station is a VERY good zombie movie.

Seoul Station unfolds predominantly from the point of view of four characters: young runaway prostitute Hye-sun; her useless computer geek boyfriend Ki-Woong; Hye-sun’s desperate father Suk-Kyu; and a nameless vagrant who is desperately trying to get help for another homeless man, who happens to be patient zero…

Just from the brief character descriptions you can see that Seoul Station is not interested in conventional heroes. Everyone here is damaged, even if they don’t at first appear to be. They are each victims of society before the zombie outbreak, and this is shown best in the early stages as we see seoul Station as a nocturnal haven for the most desperate of society. Homeless, the mentally ill, all abandoned and left to suffer in the building. It’s because these people are ignored by society, the film suggests, that the outbreak is allowed to spread so quickly. Like the best of Romero, Seoul Station effortlessly provides a fascinating social commentary, and goes to some very dark places indeed to make it’s point.

But skillfully the film never becomes preachy or stops in it’s tracks to relay anything too heavy handed. One big difference compared to the low-budget Romero flicks of the past is the set pieces, no doubt helped largely by the freedom being an animated movie allows. Ho-Yeon creates some truly imaginative and visually arresting sequences, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve seen before. Moreover, he truly “gets” zombies, and their behaviour, their expressions of pure hunger, are something to behold. As is the gore, which is plentiful and rightly so.

While I doubt the story is as propulsive and energetic as Train to Busan, which I’ve heard described as a rollercoaster, Seoul Station is still a finely paced dramatic horror that milks it’s situation for every bit of action, tension, terror and subtext it can. It often feels choreographed, almost like a dance, the result of a filmmaker using everything in his toolbox.

After this, Ho-Yeon went onto make Busan, his first live-action feature, and if he’s taken half the craft he displays here with him, well, I’m not surprised it’s gone down so well.

rsz_ss3Any complaints are very minor. The score is a little non-descript and doesn’t always compliment events onscreen. Also, some of the animation can be a little rough around the edges. But it’s nothing really.

A dark hearted and socially aware thriller interrupted by the relentless undead, Seoul Station is an excellent zombie movie, and I can’t wait to see how it plays alongside Train to Busan.

9/10

The Control Group (2014) Review

rsz_tcgThe Control Group (2014)

Directed by: Peter Hurd.
Written by: Logan Gion.
Starring: Brad Dourif, Ross Destiche, Jenna Enemy.

Trapped in an abandoned insane asylum, five college students and the rogue scientists who abducted them must band together when a supernatural threat appears.”

Trust is an unusual motif for a horror movie, but it is a predominant theme within The Control Group, which seems apposite given the current climate of political and societal unrest. Do we trust our governments or their agencies? Do we trust our friends and family? Can we even trust ourselves?
If these questions are all sounding a little Kafkaesque, that’s probably because The Control Group has a very Kafkaesque feel. There are few explanations given and, when questions are asked, there is always the strong suspicion that better questions should have been raised.

We start the film being introduced to Jack (Ross Destiche: Keepsake, Domina, Death to Prom). He’s just woken up but he doesn’t know where, how or why. Save for a few fleeting flashbacks, one prompted by the mention of a tragedy, another prompted by the sight of the scars on his wrists, Jack is unable to remember much. Even when he can, he knows he can’t trust his judgement. That’s the sort of world Jack lives in.

rsz_tcg1Jack meets a group of ‘friends’ who seem very shouty and animated as they exposition their way through the film’s first main conversation. We meet Vanessa (Jenna Enemy: Keepsake, American Beast, Watch Over Me), Jaime (Kodi Saint Angelo: Juiced, Echoes, The Kettleman), Grant (Justen Jones: The Sand Box, Fall Into Me, Flourtown) and Corey (Shane Philip making his debut appearance). And no one knows if their very vocal confusion comes from a chemical indulgence, a supernatural element, or if some other preternatural explanation is responsible. Grant is one of those overachieving bullies who deserves the unpleasantness that we hope is headed his way. Jaime is a hippy airhead, in tune with the ‘ghosts’ surrounding the group. Corey is spineless and Vanessa is a bitch being abused by Grant. The whole group are the sort who would make Amnesty International write letters to their captors saying, “They deserve more torture.”

There are some great points to this film that are marred by poor-quality effects. When characters get electrocuted, and several of them do encounter electricity, the effects prove to be shocking: but not in the good way. If anything, the effects are reminiscent of the low budget overlays that were used on the likes of Birdemic or the later Christopher Reeve Superman outings. It’s a small but (I think) valid criticism, that an audience’s suspension of disbelief can be easily shattered by a poor effect. And, since director Peter Hurd had already made the sensible decision to have a lot of the movie’s deaths and violence occur just off screen, adding to the tension by exploiting the audience’s imagination, it’s puzzling as to why this decision wasn’t extended to obviate the distraction that comes from those not-that-special effects.

rsz_tcg2That said, the whole idea is worth checking out because it does have a neatly original feel. Admittedly, there were parts that felt like a homage to Cabin in the Woods (or even i-Zombie) with the suggestion of covert government agencies that share a secret relationship with supernatural entities. But this felt less like a reimagining of a modern classic and more like an attempt to forge new ground in a developing genre. It should also be said that these scenes with covert government agencies are wonderfully exploited by Dr Broward (Brad Dourif: Child’s Play, Deadwood, Halloween and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) who steals every scene in which he appears.

And, I have to admit that I was very impressed by the use of shutter-speed adjusting as a cinematic device. It was a technique that produced stilted results, with some events seeming to begin after they’d happened, all of which added to the suggestion of chemically altered interpretation and faltering cognition skills.

Overall, this film is about an abandoned insane asylum with a group of difficult-to-like college kids being subjected to violent extremes whilst the paranoia of drug abuse being manifested as a reality. And, when you put it like that, is there a better way to spend Saturday night than watching The Control Group?

7/10

End of Days, Inc (2015) Review

rsz_1eod1END OF DAYS, INC (2015)

Starring Carolyne Maraghi, Janet Porter, Mark O’Brien and Paulino Nunes

Directed by Jennifer Liao

Written by Christina Ray

A group of laid off workers bribed into working one last night discover that processing the last of their “inventory” will lead to cataclysmic consequences“.

It’s the last day of work at Godfrey Industries. As the workers prepare to be jobless in their own ways, Janet (Carolyne Maraghi) is sad to be leaving, a loyal worker and genuinely sweet soul; Jason (Mark O’Brien) willing to lick all kinds of ass to get a good reference and decent payoff; and Misty (Janet Porter) just looking forward to getting away from the place and the people in it. But Mr Godrey (Paulino Nunes) has other ideas. He invites the workers to a last minute and compulsory “party” at the office, which is unsurprisingly all a ploy to get the staff to finish off processing some more of the inventory…Well, they have to work, basically. But there’s something very odd about all the little slips they are handling. They seem to affect the outside world in disastrous ways, and soon even begin to affect them…

Mr. Godfrey (Paulino Nunes) and Esther (Anna Ferguson) in END OF DAYS, INC.

Mr. Godfrey (Paulino Nunes) and Esther (Anna Ferguson) in END OF DAYS, INC.

End of Days Inc is a very odd little film, the kind of film that no matter how well made, how energetically performed, feels like it never wants to be an out and out success. The comedy is as broad as it is dark, yet the story is small and stagey, almost on the level of a sitcom. It’s too clean, too bright, too processed.

The performers have a thankless job. The story and the tone pretty much order them to go way over the top, and so they all obey. Everyone is professional, and Maraghi and Porter are both incredibly likeable. O’Brien is expertly smarmy as well and has some cracking timing. But the group as a whole feel like cartoon characters. They’re all very witty, yet all very sanitised. It’s an odd balance, a dark comedy playing it as safe as it’s premise will allow.

Director Jennifer Liao directs with polish and an eye for a good gag, but the budget doesn’t allow for the Burton-esque look she seems to be aiming for. Christina Ray, who wrote the very enjoyable Ginger Snaps Back way back when, scripts with pace and verve but again, this feels more like a stage play. Even with the jaunty score that almost plays like a laugh-track, signalling when something kooky is happening, just in case you didn’t notice.

rsz_eod3All in all, End of Days Inc has a fun premise that plays on the idea that the corporations are destroying the world, but it’s far too quaint to be memorable. But it is a fluffy, fast and inoffensive good time, if you’re in the mood for something on the lighter side.

6/10

Tone Death (2017) Review

rsz_tonedeathTone Death (2017)

Directors: Roger Armstrong, John Hickman
Star: John Hickman

Review from the World Premiere at the Triple Six Film Festival

Pulling off a successful mockumentary or “found footage” genre film is a more complex task than it initially appears. Too often the genre can be used as an excuse for wobbly camerawork, lazy directing and bad storytelling from people too idle to exert themselves. The likes of The Pyramid, The Paranormal Activity series and the recent Blair Witch sequel are perfunctory, lethargic snoozefests for the large part. Although they still pale in comparison to the Danny Dyer vehicle Pimp, a staggeringly rubbish film which unwittingly parodied itself by casting Dyer as some sort of cockney Don Corleone.

Thankfully, British indie flick, Tone Death falls on the positive side populated by the likes of Trollhunter and Borderlands. Directors and stars Roger Armstrong and John Hickman excellent borrow tools from the genre to deliver not so much a black comedy as a “black-hole” comedy.

rsz_tonedeath1_zpsyzjskn8oThe film centres on friends Roger – a DJ and ex-raver unbalanced by previous substance use – and his bumbling friend John (played by Armstrong and Hickman respectively). Roger believes he has found a sound frequency to elevate a person to a higher state of non-physical consciousness and constructs a ludicrous homemade machine to test his theory. It is a weird mix of religion and drug induced, new age techno-spiritualism that will be familiar to anyone involved in rave culture over the last 30 years.

Manchester’s Triple 6 Horror Festival was the first place to show Tone Death on the big screen but in many ways the film lies much closer to the outstanding Four Lions in its tone. Consistently drawing out laughs from bleak, mundane and grim scenarios that successfully walk the line of good taste.

Armstrong and Hickman provide a tremendous double act. Armstrong’s working-class, clubland Victor Frankenstein is hilarious. A never to be finished 20 year album and quest for spiritual perfection belying a total nihilism about the human race. Some of the support characters do suffer from a lack of dimension with the exception of Stephen Robertson’s bumbling local drunk, familiar to any town centre in Britain, who threatens to steal the show.

rsz_tonedeath2_zpsjr4epxysThere is plenty of splatter and gore on show but the film succeeds in avoiding being mean-spirited while successfully nailing its intended targets for humour. There is, to a large extent an affection for the characters, if in part because they are closely based on the actors portraying them.

Speaking to the team behind Tone Death there idea for a follow up is another black comedy following a band of inept slashers attempting to kill the final girl but continuously cocking it up. If the jokes and love of horror cinema are anything to go off here, we should all certainly hope it’s a film that we all get to see. A terrific debut.

Dark Cove (2016) Review

rsz_dc1DARK COVE (2016)

Starring Rob Willey, Cameron Crosby and Rob Abbate

Directed by Rob Willey

Written by Dennis Willey and Rob Willey

Five friends go camping on the rugged coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. Things start to go seriously wrong while they party with two Australian surfers

There’s an argument in scriptwriting circles that you don’t necessarily need likeable characters in a film. Screw the save the cat moment, or even being relatable. Hell, most quality TV series now revolve around antihero’s. Because no matter whether the characters are likeable or relatable, there’s always two things the writers never forget to do: make them BELIEVABLE and INTERESTING. But what if you don’t make your characters likeable, relatable, believable or interesting? Well, you end up with something like Dark Cove.

rsz_dc2Five friends head out to the coast for some fun, including the Bromantic Bro Triangle of Joey (Rob Abbate), Donnie (Cameron Crosby) and Quinn (writer, director and editor Rob Willey), and friends Lacey (Jules Cotton) and Jen (Montanna McNalley). They expect a night of shrooms, beers and existential bro chats. And for about half the film, that’s what they get. Until they invite over a pair of Aussie and a Brit with the most bizarre accent I’ve heard in a very long time and a plot begins happening.

I wanted all of these characters to die. I was waiting patiently for a masked psycho or squealing inbred to wipe these fuckers out…but they never turned up. They just let this bunch come out with more inane, juvenile dialogue and play footy, play the guitar and talk about life and shit round a campfire.

Once the dark stuff starts happening, the unbelievable behaviour simply becomes inexplicable. I won’t go into detail and spoil it for you but it’s pretty hilarious, as everyone’s acting kicks into overdrive and completely at odds with normal behaviour. It’s actually enjoyable for all the wrong reasons.

rsz_dc3Technically the film is pretty slick. Willey has an eye and cuts the film well, and aside from the most ridiculous axe attack sound effect, the sound is very professional.

Look, this is an admirably assembled bad film, but I can’t deny, it’s entertaining in a The Room kind of way. Its mercifully short and with a better script this cast and crew will make something great. As it stands, it’s campy schlock.

5/10

Cruel Summer (2016) Triple Six Festival Review

rsz_cruel_summer_posterCruel Summer (2016)

Screened at The Triple Six Horror Film Festival , Manchester 28th May 2017

Directors/Writers: Phillip Escott, Craig Newman

Stars: Danny Miller, Reece Douglas, Richard Pawulski

Out Now on UK DVD & On Demand

Shot over what must have been ten of the most intense shooting days in cinema production history, Cruel Summer has proved to be an incredibly divisive film. In its screenings at Frightfest and Manchester’s recent Triple 6 Horror festival, audiences have been sharply divided and Q&A sessions with directors and writers Phillip Escott and Craig Newman have escalated from relaxed talking shops into heated debates.

Small wonder considering the tough subject matter on display. The story follows autistic teenager Danny (Richard Pawulski) who is camping on his own for the first time to gain his Duke of Edinburgh award. Meanwhile, bitter, violent local youth, Nicholas (Emmerdale’s Danny Miller) who egged on by a lie over an affair from jealous friend Julia (Natalie Martins), hunts down and tortures Danny along with a third friend Calvin (Waterloo Road’s Reece Douglas).

It is, without question, one of the toughest films I have ever had to watch and do not want to watch again anytime soon. This is not a knock against the film though. Escott and Newman have delivered one of the most important and brilliant pieces of British filmmaking in years. The subject matter can be, at best, described as thoroughly harrowing. My emotions were entirely drained by the end and I was left with a seething, boiling anger over the events I had just witnessed. So much so that I had to head outside and decompress afterwards.

rsz_cs1Comparisons I heard were to Cannibal Holocaust and Last House on the Left, those comparisons do this film a disservice as it has far more in common with the works of Shane Meadows, Mike Leigh and Ben Wheatley, presenting a gritty realism but is not cheap, gross or exploitative. Much of the brutality is actually unseen, down to superb directing and editing. It is the oppressive intensity. The hopelessness of the situation. The grim, pointless mess of it all that works you over.

Escott and Newman based the story on a number of different cases that have happened in Britain in recent years and the subject matter is treated with great care and sensitivity.

The performances from the four lead actors are incredible. Miller, not shy of getting to grips with meaty storylines is excellent as the psychotic, hateful slimeball Nicholas. Just thinking about the character is enough to raise my hackles again. Puwulski also pulls off an astonishing performance as Danny, avoiding using tropes that so often inadvertently mock those with mental disabilities. A word on Natalie Martins too, who produces a more restrained but equally outstanding performance as the jealous Julia. Clearly in love with Danny but jealous over his infatuation to the point of egging him into committing a heinous and besotted with him to the point where she goes along with it to the end.

rsz_cs2Cruel Summer will not entertain in any traditional sense but it educates, informs and elicits the necessary feelings of disgust, dismay and anger from the audience. In a time where hate crimes have spiked, tacitly encouraged by a vile and mean-spirited government keen to target the most vulnerable in society, Cruel Summer is an important film about hate crimes and the mindless violence of a lost generation of underclass youth.

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