Directed by Adam Gierasch
Distributed by Lionsgate
By now the After Dark label is enough to instill feelings of weariness in all but the most naïve moviegoer. Forget the old ”fool me once, shame on you…” saying, the folks behind this video banner have been consistently conning video store patrons and Netflixers out of their time and money for years now. True, some of the films haven’t been bad, but it takes someone with more patience than mine to wade through these annual offerings in the hopes of separating the winners from the losers. Personally speaking, I never pick right, which is precisely how I got stuck reviewing Fertile Ground.
We’ve seen the premise before: a young couple leaving behind the hustle and bustle of city life after a miscarriage leaves their marriage strained. They settle into a country house, an isolated place that’s been in the guy’s family for generations, only to suffer an onslaught of the most pedestrian thrills and predictable plotting imaginable. There’s a trunk loaded with spooky family heirlooms, a human skull that’s unearthed in the front yard and, of course, a climactic possession that you’ll see coming well before anything actually gets around to happening.
Most surprising is that Fertile Ground comes to us courtesy of some filmmakers who should’ve known better. Director Adam Gierasch has yet to find his filmmaker’s legs, but his Night of the Demons remake at least benefited from a decent pace and some minor setpieces. It’s a far cry from the lethargic pace of this mess, which a friend accurately summed up as a Lifetime horror movie. Nothing happens here. Wife wanders around looking suspicious, husband becomes increasing hostile. Wash, rinse, repeat. Blah.
Gierasch co-wrote this dud with Jace Anderson, and together these guys have been responsible for penning some pretty entertaining genre films. Say what you will about Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears (and I’m sure you have), but it wasn’t boring. Ditto the duo’s Toolbox Murders remake, which had quite a lot to enjoy before fizzling out with an incoherent climax. It’s just hard to say what the hell happened with Fertile Ground. Not only is it uneventful, but every story note has been mined to far greater success in dozens of genre films. One assumes Fertile Ground will veer off into an unexpected direction at some point, but alas, it adheres to its pedestrian nature until the bitter end.
What good is a horror film without scares or suspense? Without likable characters or effective direction? It’s worthless, and that’s exactly right when discussing this junk. When the only memorable aspect happens to be the bare breasts of actress Leisha Hailey, it’s obvious the filmmakers have failed in their intentions – whatever they were. Fertile Ground begs the question: Why did they bother? I can’t answer that, but what I can say is that just because they did doesn’t mean you should. Give it a miss. Anything else you do with your time is better spent.
Lionsgate brings Fertile Ground to DVD with a 1.78:1 transfer that offers pretty stunning clarity and detail for standard definition. Picture quality is rather strong, without any of the distracting artifacting that seems to plague the majority of new releases. And the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also no slouch with rich and textured music making the film seem more exciting than it really is. Dialogue is always clear and remains the dominant sound, while noises creak in stereo channels. Not a bad way to experience this film.
The DVD commentary is a fair listen, consisting of an enjoyable discussion with Gierasch, Anderson and Hailey. Nothing revelatory, but fans of the film, or the writing duo in general, will probably enjoy this talk. The only other extra feature on the disc is a storyboard gallery. A light smattering of supplements to be sure, but credit Lionsgate for bothering.
Fertile Ground isn’t worth much. It’s a frustrating experience as the writer and director have some entertaining films on their resume – this simply doesn’t happen to be one of them. Instead, it’s illustrative of the lack of quality control under the After Dark banner. I watched this so you don’t have to. Don’t let my wasted weekend be in vain.
1/2 out of 5
2 out of 5
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