After seeing his Father pull a shotgun on his Mother young Steven is sent to stay at his Grandparents farm. Mysterious happenings befall the family after Steven ventures into the surrounding fields.
Tom Waits tells an on stage anecdote about people who sit in movie theatres and lean in to say “you know this based on true story right?”. His point being “as though that improves the film”. The Fields proudly claims to be based on a true story. Horror films based on true stories often prove to be the most terrifying of all; The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wolf Creek, Beyond the Sea.
Things don’t start too promisingly. Firstly the title. The Fields in one way sounds vague, mysterious and perhaps riddled with evilness. On the other hand it just sounds like a nice spot for a picnic. Tara Reid’s name above the title also doesn’t inspire confidence. Since her peak in the late-90s her acting abilities (and seemingly her ability to speak without some kind of woozy drawl) have gone downhill despite that slight spike of brilliance in Alone in the Dark. Pleasantly surprising then to find her somewhat believable as a put-upon wife and mother. Plus her role is essentially little more than an extended cameo.
The real stars of the film are Joshua Ormond as the inquisitive little boy Steven and Cloris Leachman as his foul-mouthed Grandmother. Still going strong Leachman is still a deft hand at play slightly grotesque without going too overboard. She shows her Grandmother to be both an impatient nag and a caring matriarch who is not beyond passing gas to raise a smile. It’s the scenes between her and Steven where the film really comes into it’s own. In fact the “horror” aspects of the film could have been left out in favour of character drama and it may have worked better.
The creepy events begin after Steven ventures out into THE FIELDS despite his Grandmother forbidding him. He comes strange things before running foul of drugged hippies. Admittedly it is nice to see crazed hippies making a come back as movie monsters, it gives the film a strange sense of nostalgia. Tension begins to build as the family are gently terrorized by the un-seen hippies over the course of many nights leading to an eventual semi-car chase through the fields. Although never properly seen or any reasons as to why, we are definitely dealing with hippies.
Directors Mattera & Mazzoni should be applauded for attempting to slow the pace down a little. Their approach is to give only a little away each time something spooky happens. It’s a refreshing change of pace to many of the music video inspired horror films of late. Unfortunately the scares are so sparse and so infrequent that it renders the film ultimately quite dull. The plotting of the film could also have used some work. The film opens with Steve’s Father (Faust Checho) threatening his Mother with a shotgun. It’s only in the last 20 minutes that the characters re-appear to tie up the plot strand.
The film looks good, but with little in the way of scares it’s main reason for watching is Cloris Leachman’s spirited performance. Hopefully with some better material for their next picture directors Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni can pull off something interesting.