DVD Review: The Fields (2011)
Review by Tristan Bishop
Childhood is held up by many to be a wonderful time filled with magic and happiness. However, some of us remember that being a kid can also be the scariest time of your life. The world is still unexplored and fresh, and with the unknown usually comes fear – could there be something lurking beneath the bed? What are those strange sounds outside during the night? Writer and producer Harrison Smith is fully aware of this, and The Fields is his attempt at making some kind of sense and narrative out of his childhood memories.
The year is 1973, and a young boy (played by Joshua Ormond) whose chief interest appears to be Godzilla movies is moved out to stay with his grandparents following a little marital tension between his parents – specifically seeing his father pointing a rifle at his mother’s head. Whilst being driven to his grandparents the boy hears a radio report about Charles Manson, and becomes concerned that Manson might escape from jail and come for him. Whilst staying with his grandparents, the boy starts wandering through the cornfields (despite being warned not to), and begins uncovering mysterious and disturbing things – could the local hippies be a Manson-esque cult? Was that a dead body in the fields? Is someone or something listening at the bedroom window at night?
The idea of exploring fear from a child’s point of view has been done before – in the excellent, underrated Paperhouse (1988), for instance, or more recently with the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth, and it can help to imbue the ordinary with sinister overtones. Unfortunately here the idea works against the film as a whole. Many disturbing incidents occur with little explanation (in particular a visit to a house of relatives who appear to be lacking a few chromosomes, which is meant to tie in to the father’s childhood, but is not expanded upon in any satisfactory manner), and whilst there is some attempt at wrapping up at the end it feels far too flimsy and anti-climactic – especially given the extremely slow pace of the film in general. In the hands of a truly skilled artist perhaps the film could have played more with the disjointedness, but here there is no sense of real horror, and sophomore directors Tom Mattera and Dave Mazzoni end up with something that generates boredom and confusion more than it does a sense of unease.
There are things to be admired here, however – the music is subtle and effective, some of the camera work is excellent (after a nasty discover, the green cornfields and blue skies turn to an endless expanse of grey), and the colour scheme has a pleasingly washed-out, retro feel. As a whole, the actors turn in pretty standard performances – notorious party casualty Tara Reid as the mother amusingly fails to convince as an alcoholic, but all acting honours are stolen away by the wonderful Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein, Malcolm In The Middle) as the foul mouthed grandmother and Bev Appleton as the cool grandfather, but unfortunately these highlights are swallowed up by a film which fails to deliver any horror, tension or interest. The Fields is very much a missed opportunity.
The Fields is available on Region 2 DVD on 27th August, from Arrow Films.