Husk (2011)

Directed By: Brett Simmons
Written By: Brett Simmons
Starring: Devon Graye
  Wes Chatham
  C.J. Thompson
  Tammin Sursok

Horror Lesson #456: never go in cornfields. You can add Husk to Children of the Corn, Jeepers Creepers 2, Roadkill, Signs and a hundred other films where folk wander into corn-growing fields only to never return. Playing out like a less playful episode of TV’s Supernatural, Husk takes some tried and tested ingredients – group of young people, stalled car, corn field, scarecrows, pitchforks, shotguns, mayhem and murder – and rejuvenates them into something slightly more original and unexpected.

Husk is one of the After Dark Originals “8 movies to die for” titles, which recently played at Empire Cinemas across the UK, and is well worth seeking out now it’s on DVD.

A group of five twenty-somethings are driving down a private road – presumably a shortcut – to get to their annual drinkathon. Out of nowhere a flock (sorry, murder) of crows smash into their windscreen and sends the car careening into a ditch. When they wake up one of their party is missing, and it looks like he’s walked into a massive cornfield adjacent to the road.

As set-ups go this is pretty perfunctory, but it is done quickly and without too many painful stereotypes spouting idiotic lines. The remaining four friends spot a farmhouse in the middle of the cornfield and walk towards it, looking for help and looking for Johnny. The field is populated by sack-headed scarecrows and the farm seems entirely deserted, but they finally discover Johnny upstairs in the “sewing room”… and something is very very wrong with him.

Husk kicks into gear once the mask-sewing weirdness starts and you begin to be genuinely excited and intrigued by the premise. Throwing in sprinting scarecrows, freaky flashbacks, possession and a horrible sense of foreboding, Husk propels you into a dark, ghostly horror that is strangely compelling.

The main surprise with Husk is the character work; the apparently cut-n’-dry obvious stereotypes slowly divert as the film progresses. The slovenly bastard becomes likeable and the heroic blonde guy gradually becomes a cowardly bastard. It’s refreshing and enjoyable.

Acting wise it’s generally competent throughout, with believable turns from Devon Graye and C.J. Thomason as Scott and Chris. Wes Chatham provides a superb performance as Brian, who seems like the a-typical jock hero until the fear and panic of the situation drives him into a narcissistic strive for freedom, creating a multi-layered, believable character. There is little of note from Tammin Sursok, however, who plays the only female in the film, Natalie – it is a nothing part and she deserves more.

Husk is entirely the creation of Brett Simmons, developed from a successful short of the same name. Although his direction is solid throughout, sometimes the script feels rushed and stretched, perhaps proving that short films are often best left short. Some scenes drag significantly in Husk, but luckily the intrigue keeps the excitement cindering along throughout. Despite some decent characterizations, Simmons also writes in a character who has unexplained psychic flashbacks to the past, which appear to be more lazy storytelling than anything else.

Apart from the niggles above, Husk also significantly suffers from some hindsight altercations. There are many unanswered questions that leave you wincing with confusion, especially after the frustrating final reel – how did the other cars end up by the farmhouse? Why are the crows suicidal nutcases? Who the hell is growing that corn? And what the heck happened at the end?! Most of these issues don’t factor in whilst you’re watching Husk – you’re too entertained and intrigued to care – but it does leave a slightly sour taste in the mouth when the hindsight pill is swallowed down.

Overall Husk is a decent, enjoyable horror. It digs up some clichés but quickly buries them under some fresh ideas and characters; the direction is solid and the acting surprisingly good in places. It is not perfect, but it works, and repeats a valuable lesson – don’t ever walk into a cornfield… unless you like dying. Husk is definitely worth a watch.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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