Fields, The (UK DVD)
Starring Cloris Leachman, Joshua Ormond, Tara Reid
Directed by Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni
Distributed by Arrow Films
Set in 1973, The Fields takes us on a somewhat morose journey into fear through the eyes of a child. Said child is the cherubic, moon-faced Steven (Ormond), who is sent off to live on his grandparents’ farm for a few weeks after witnessing an especially heated argument between his parents which climaxes with father Barry (Faust Checho) leveling a rifle in the face of Steven's booze-guzzling party-girl mother Bonnie (Reid).
During the ride over with his mother, Steven hears the news of Charles Manson’s appeal trial on the radio, kicking off a slowly escalating fear that the Manson Family are still out there and may be coming to get him. The child’s nervous outlook on the world is further compounding by the discovery of a young girl’s body on the other side of the forbidden corn field that surrounds the farm and occasional encounters with a shady group of hippies shacking up in an abandoned strip nearby. Steven’s worries aren’t all for naught in the end, as he and his ailing grandparents find themselves on the receiving end of some particularly heinous terrorisation by unseen figures that culminates in... not much of anything, truth be told.
There are two major problems with The Fields, considering its promotion. First, it’s barely a horror film. Second, it’s frequently insufferably, mind-numbingly sluggish in execution. Directors Mattera and Mazzoni have a neat visual eye, and do manage to boil up the occasional bout of tension, but for the most part The Fields is less an excursion into fear than it is a family drama. A family drama with very, very little to do but have people sit around and talk. Then talk some more while a po-faced little boy nods his head. Then follow him as he wanders off to get spooked at the sight of a rusty car or something equally benign. And repeat.
The few scenes that muster a real sense of menace are impressively crafted, such as Steven’s exploration of an abandoned funhouse leading to the discovery of a particularly unnerving vagrant and a truly chilling scene involving a stick being thrown into the fields, but they’re surrounded with so much dawdling filler that the sense of your life, and patience, slowly sucking away becomes palpable. In fact, the only thing likely to keep most holding on to what’s going on in The Fields is the inclusion of the wonderful Cloris Leachman as Grandmother Gladys and Bev Appleton as her long-suffering, but absolutely loving husband Hiney. Nearly every scene involving one or both of them is gold as they exude such an authentic old couple vibe that it’s impossible not to smile at their bickering or occasionally twisted, yet maybe-not-so-out-there world view. When the film ends on as disappointing and lowkey an approach as the prior two acts, it isn’t hard to recognise that these two were the only reason you were even holding on to find that out.
As Steven, Ormond is simply much too somnambulistic to ever be identifiable or sympathetic. Almost every scene, spoken or not, sees his emotionless face and dead eyes offer nothing in the way of recognisable consideration, discomfort, or even fear (unless of course he’s screaming and running, which is a given). Faust Checho is authentic as the father with an anger problem, and Tara Reid, highly billed despite having around fifteen minutes’ total screen time, is as awful as ever, her unconvincing line delivery danced around by the already unimpressive Ormond within five minutes of the opening sequence.
With such a potent lack of scares, and a protagonist who proves the least interesting or memorable of any character to float in and out of the various scenes, The Fields is simply a plodding, lumbering drama that slowly leads to nowhere. Only fans of Leachman may apply, as she really is the single best thing about the entire affair.
Arrow Films’ UK DVD presentation comes with absolutely zero by way of special features (save for a somewhat nifty lenticular sleeve). A boring package for a boring movie.
1 1/2 out of 5
0 out of 5