The Fields (2012)

The year is October 1973 and Bonnie (Tara Reid) takes her kid Steven (Joshua Ormond) to his grandparents house while she sorts out her family ‘issues’ (mostly being her gun-threatening husband and her slight dependence on alcohol).

Unfortunately for Steven, his grandparents live in an old farmhouse that Leatherface would feel comfortable in, back-ended by a massive cornfield. This cornfield is the focus of the film. Steven is told not to go in the corn!! But why? Is there children there? Or evil scarecrows? Or ghosts? Or Kevin Costner playing baseball?

Whatever the case, simple-minded Steven follows an over-friendly crow into the field and finds a dead girl! Naturally ‘Nanny’ and ‘Pappy’ don’t believe him and Steven (insanely) goes into the field again, only to find a creepy old amusement park… and we begin to realize something is wrong with either the cornfield or with Steven himself. Or both.

The Fields is very much a mood piece, moving steadily forwards with its own intention, but the meandering plot and real lack of narrative arc for the first forty minutes will test your patience, as The Fields significantly sags in places. There are a LOT of talky scenes across dinner tables and in bars, to the point it feels like a drama instead of a horror.

At first it feels like a possible story of “how monsters are made” as Steven is afflicted with abusive parents, some sweary grandparents, a dead body in a field and a deep-seated fear of Charles Manson. It feels like it’s leading to some future breakdown, but instead it just bumbles onwards to a climax that is neither climactic nor greatly shocking.

The Fields is beautifully shot and packed with amazing locations, including the dying corn field and an abandoned amusement park that is at once wonderful and very haunting. The dialogue is pretty sharp – “You should be more afraid of the living than the dead” – although occasionally it’s cloyingly naturalistic, and Tara Reid is surprisingly decent in her short screen time (she bookends the story, so fans of Reid should prepare for a disappointingly short role here).

The major problem with The Fields is a lack of pace and direction. At fifty minutes in we’re still not entirely sure what the story is about. Innocent Steven is seeing weird things in the cornfields. Weird things happen. There’s a sense of timeline-melding weirdness to it, but absolutely no sense of plotting, pace or danger.

With only ten minutes remaining you’d still be hard-pressed to describe the actual plot of The Fields. Not that it’s complicated, but because it’s a bit meandering. At first you’ll think young Steven is imagining the crazy stuff he’s seeing in the cornfields, then you realize something real is attacking the farmhouse and finally you begin wondering if it’s an aggressive ghost (or two) buggering about for a laugh.

The conclusion gives no indication what The Fields was trying to say – and explained away in a radio news report – but presumably it’s about family and responsibility and a metaphor for life in the early 70’s. Unfortunately The Fields is quite tame, too, aiming for darkly gothic and weird and coming out as a bit bland and confused.

There is also no explanation as to why this film was set in 1973. Mentions of Charles Manson hardly seem like reason enough. It’s an odd decision and it feels the film could’ve sat just as well in 2012. I presume the creators were going for an American Gothic-style feel, but the presence of Tara Reid and an almost timeless quality to the farmhouse made this jump back to the 70’s seem wildly pointless.

The Fields is a slow-burning, moody little horror film that trundles along tamely and never really makes the impact it could’ve done. Well acted and with some decent dialogue from Harrison Smith, it is a shame The Fields isn’t better than it is. The Fields is unfortunately forgettable.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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