Dark Fields (DVD)

Dark Fields reviewStarring Jenna Scott, Lindsay Dell, Eric Phillion, Brian Austin Jr., Ryan Hulshof, Paul Pinel, A.K. Randall

Directed by Mark McNabb & Al Randall

Distributed by Lionsgate

If nothing else at least Dark Fields can lay claim to having one of the funniest continuity errors I’ve ever seen. A carload of teens almost out of gas pulls off the interstate and comes to stop at an off-ramp intersection, as they try to decide which way they should go in order to find a gas station so that they don’t find themselves stranded out in the middle of nowhere with a homicidal maniac. With no gas stations in view and no real clue where to go from there, the choice the driver makes will lead them down a dark road to nowhere where they will indeed run out of gas and find themselves being murdered one-by-one by a homicidal maniac. As their car is then shown pulling out and heading down the unfortunate path they’ve chosen, one can see a gas station price sign just over the horizon behind them. Brilliant!

The plot deals with a carload of high school students heading wherever to see some rock concert. Low on gas, they make a wrong turn and end up out in the middle of nowhere in front of some Texas Chainsaw Massacre-looking farmhouse with a creepy loner inside just waiting for someone to come along so he can go all slasher movie on them.

Dark Fields can also lay claim to having what I do believe to be the most pathetic motivations for any movie slasher I can think of. As a child he and his family were brutalized by some thugs that showed up at his farmhouse looking to steal some gasoline. Our killer is just your typical backwoods loner living in a rundown farmhouse, at least he was until some teens breakdown out front and one of them decides to try and help himself to some gasoline. That’s all it take for Farmer Brown to snap and go all Michael Myers on them. That’s right. Attempting to swipe some gasoline from him is the catalyst for his psychopathic rampage. And we only learn these motivations when they find a newspaper clipping detailing what happened to his family long ago. Gimme a break!

Physical appearance wise, our psycho looks like a husky dairy farmer with a Cousin It head, his face buried behind his long, flowing black hair. We never see his face and, I for one wondered just how the heck he was able to see anything at all behind that impenetrable wall of hair. He never speaks and moves about Michael Myers-like: very deliberate movements, often just standing there silently, and suddenly appearing from out of nowhere.

I was actually giving Dark Fields a chance for about the first twenty minutes. The lead actress, Jenna Scott, is quite easy on the eyes, a fact not lost on the filmmakers as they just love focusing the camera on her mid-riff baring belly shirt as often as possible, and the assembly of stock teen slasher movie characters (jock boyfriend, nerdy third wheel, horny couple) were at least tolerable in spite of their clichéd archetypes and a barrage of more unfunny than not sex and fart jokes. I was sitting there thinking to myself that this wasn’t half bad so far; I’d certainly seen far worse lately. Then they ran out of gas, got to the farmhouse, and the film began to die a long, slow, agonizing death even before any of them did.

One teen will go up to the farmhouse in search of gasoline never to be seen or heard from again. We don’t see this person die and they never even find the body. When the others go looking for this character it’s becomes time for something that’s now a prerequisite in this type of horror movie: scenes of the characters wandering about inside the creepy, dimly lit place looking for signs of life, preferably that of their missing friend. This search & do nothing mission goes on for ten looooooong minutes before something finally happens. Actually, that something only breaks up the monotony momentarily. There’s much more monotony to come.

For the life of me I do not understand what the point is of having two characters that are stranded at a creepy farmhouse so far out in the boondocks they can’t get a cellphone signal suddenly decide to take time out from searching for a friend that has gone missing just so they can have a quick roll in the hay (Literally!) and yet we, the viewers, are not even rewarded for watching such stupidity with some gratuitous nudity. I shouldn’t be too surprised because not only does the film give us a brief fully-clothed sex scene, it doesn’t even deliver on the gore side of things, either. Aside from a character that loses part of their arm, the death scenes, what few there are, boast little or no carnage and certainly no creativity. Remind me what the point of making this movie was again?

Oh, that’s right. I forgot. We’re supposed to be scared as we watch our lead heroine and another character with the most shrill scream I’ve ever heard – believe me when I say you’ll be begging for the killer to finish this character off just so you won’t have to hear their annoying (and constant) screaming – as they run around from one place to the next while being pursued by a procrastinating madman. That’s all there is to Dark Fields. They run, they hide, they scream, and then they run somewhere else so they can hide and scream again. And don’t forget the flashlights. They even wave those flashlights around when they’re in reasonably lit interiors. Boring, yes. Scary, no. Pointless, even more so. Given the film’s Canadian origins and overall lameness, I find myself wondering if Dark Fields was really somebody’s tax write-off. I sure as hell have a hard time believing anyone thought this was remotely passable even by the already low standards of the slasher movie genre.

It all comes down to the big final face-off between our lead heroine and the hairy homicidal maniac that is so poorly executed it actually becomes comical. What kind of self-respecting, supposedly unstoppable homicidal maniac can no sell getting impaled with a steel pike but goes down like he’s been shot after getting punched in the face by a tiny girl one-third his size?

But then what more would one suspect from a movie that opens with the film’s title, Dark Fields, and ends with the film’s original title, Farmer Brown, appearing on the screen? Nice job there, Lionsgate.

The closing credits also contain a series of unfunny outtakes that show you that everyone involved had a better time making the film than most everyone else will having watching it. Amazingly, it took two people to direct Dark Fields. Seriously, two people? To direct this?

Lionsgate’s DVD artwork for Dark Fields also boasts a rather curious quote on it.

“The most terrifying movie experience of the decade.” – IFQ

The only IFQ I know of is the magazine Independent Film Quarterly. I don’t know if that’s the IFQ being quoted but I certainly hope not because I have a very hard time imagining they have anyone on staff that actually found watching this film the most terrifying movie experience they’ve had in the past decade. In fact, I’ll go so far to say that that quote and the prospect that it actually reflects the opinion of a real person is the only thing about Dark Fields I found to be terrifying.

I got a quote that Lionsgate should put on the DVD case that’s a hell of a lot more honest about the film itself.

“Hey, at least the lead actress is a hotty.” – Dread Central

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1 out of 5

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Jon Condit