Directed by Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni
Distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures
In the independent thriller The Fields, we’re transported back to the world of 1973 when Charles Manson and his followers were global news items after the infamous murders that claimed the lives of several innocent people including actress Sharon Tate.
And while the Manson Murders are certainly a thematic element simmering within the story of The Fields, this tale actually takes places in the Pennsylvania countryside after young parents Bonnie (Tara Reid) and Charlie (Brian Anthony Wilson) realize their marriage is in serious trouble after a fight when Charlie gets so furious, he pulls a gun on Bonnie in front of their son Steven (Joshua Ormond).
While they take some time to work things out, Steven is sent to live with his grandparents Gladys (Cloris Leachman) and Hiney (Bev Appleton) on their farm. On the way to his grandparents place, Steven hears a news report about the Manson Murders and begins to worry that Manson’s infamous “Family” is going to come after him while he sleeps.
Once he gets to the farm, Gladys sets one ground rule: don’t go into the corn fields and of course, where is one of the first places Steven goes exploring? Yup, the same corn fields he’s supposed to stay out of. One day while he gets lost deep in the creepy corn fields, he discovers a young woman’s body and begins to suspect that a group a transient hippies that have taken to squatting in the small town have made their way to his grandparents’ farm and are up to no good.
Sadly, that’s about it in terms of plot development in The Fields as the film really doesn’t do much in the way of story, character development or entertainment either and frankly when it tries, it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense at all. Even with the Manson Murders worked in there as an attempt to set an ominous tone, filmmakers Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni pretty much squander that away and deliver a snoozefest of a flick- a great looking and well-made snoozefest but a snoozefest nonetheless.
The biggest flaws come in the way of the story and the fact that very little actually happens in The Fields; there’s a lot of creepy set-ups with the potential for some clever little cinematic moments and yet, those moments never go anywhere. The older cast in the flick is surprisingly solid though; Leachman is great as the lovable but hardnosed grandmother and delivers a rather lovely performance. She has wonderful chemistry with Appleton who portrays her husband and shockingly enough, the notoriously not-great Reid is actually pretty enjoyable in The Fields and seems like she’s back to almost caring about her career again.
Let’s hope if she wants to continue doing genre films that she picks more interesting projects in the future.
The weak link in terms of casting is Ormond as Steven who is the heart of this story and is front and center throughout most of the film. He’s not terrible necessarily; he’s just not compelling enough to ever get drawn in by and spends most of the movie blankly staring at us, his co-stars and often times- at nothing at all. He’s a cute kid but he’s just not ready for stardom yet and seemed to be as bored by the lack of story going on in The Fields as this writer was.
On a technical level, the look of The Fields is pretty decent for an independent feature, save for a few awkwardly shot scenes here and there and a couple of night scenes that ended up being a little too dark; the pacing though leaves a lot to be desired too because you always feel like the directors are leading to something (a la the “Ti West Slow Burn” approach) but here, everything we see leads up to absolutely zilch in terms of a payoff.
In terms of the extra goodies on the DVD release of The Fields, they end up being slightly more entertaining than the movie they’re being released with. There are several featurettes including “Behind the Scenes: The Making of The Fields” which clocks in at 19 minutes, “Real Stories & Faces Behind the Film” which explores some of the real-life inspirations behind the film, a gag reel called “Hey, No Funny Stuff” and finally “Ladies & Gentlemen, Cloris Leachman!” which is another gag reel featuring the brilliant and hilarious actress attempting to do an intro to the film.
A photo gallery and standard trailer are included on the DVD release of The Fields as well.
Overall, The Fields is pretty much a skippable affair unless you’ve had some insomnia going on lately and need a remedy or you’re just really curious; by no means is the flick terrible, it’s just very bland and lacks any sort of thrilling aspects that one would come to expect from a ‘thriller.’ Hardened horror fans will definitely want to avoid taking a trip to The Fields any time soon.
2 out of 5
3 out of 5