THE FIELDS – Movie Review

THE FIELDS – Movie Review

Childhood, for many, is a magical time full of laughter and games and time spent playing with friends, but for some childhood is no refuge from the stresses and terrors of adult life. Such is the case with the young boy in THE FIELDS, whose mother and father are embroiled in their own domestic drama that constantly threatens to boil over and scald their son. But then, no one ever promised that any age, or any place is safe from the violence of a world that often goes mad.

It is Summer at the edge of the glory days of the ‘60s just as reality began to return to a generation of optimists. A young boy is caught in the middle of a war between his mother and father and he is quickly growing up. When the boy’s mother takes him to his grandparent’s home in the country so mom and dad can figure themselves out, what should be a fun and relaxing vacation becomes something far more terrifying when he finds the body of a dead woman hidden in the corn rows behind the home. When he tells his grandparents they think he is just a young boy with too much life drama and too big of an imagination but when he starts to see other things, like someone at his window, and hear people in the field he starts to realize that he isn’t imagining things at all, but that someone or something deadly is coming into play. And slowly, as the strange occurrences mount grandpa and grandma become aware of the danger they are suddenly in, danger that may stem from the hippies that have been camping out past the fields, out where no one would bother them. But now that they see the danger too, now that they have heeded the boy’s warnings, it may be too late.

THE FIELDS is a very effective little chiller that is all about atmosphere and terror. The performances from the seasoned vets like Tara Reid and Cloris Leachman are a bit over the top (though not horrible by any means) but the reserved acting by the lead, the boy, is wonderful. He brings an every-kid aspect to this – a kid that will do things they aren’t supposed to but more out of an adventurous spirit than a malicious one. There is a point in the film where things begin to come to a head and he does something very rash but very brave, something a lot of kids might do in similar circumstances, and I thought that was pretty good filmmaking. This is not a large film, in any way, but a small, quiet film full of dread and What If, and set in at the autumn of the Peace and Love generation. This movie is all about the distrust the hippie movement had sown in the baby-boomer generation and the real danger that lay at the center of certain circles of that movement. The acting is effective, if overt, the direction is very well done, as are the sets, and overall the tone is nailed dead on here.

THE FIELDS is not a horror film, per se, but is a much more effective version of the home invasion films we’ve gotten a lot of in recent years. Which is not at all to say that those films and this one are the same in subject but more in tone, which this one really gets. This is about the slow burn, and the buildup, and when it’s all over, there still enough tension to take you into the credits without feeling false. Now THAT is effective! Not a classic but a very solid film and one to give a look.

7.5 out of 10

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KIDNAPPED – review

   For some reason I am inherently drawn to movies that people say are ‘brutal’. Not the ones that are just gore for the sake of gore because that was done in the ‘80’s and then more realistically in the ‘90’s. I mean the movies that supposed screw with your head because they are so dark and gruesome. Films that take you to a place you don’t want to be. For me it’s looking into the darkness, or a mimic of it, and seeing if I can take what I see. And sometimes it’s good to be shocked, to be outraged because it reminds you where your line is with art and films, and why you feel that way. So this is what lead me to watch Kidnapped, which I found streaming on Netflix. I had read about how brutal it was and was curious. So here we go.

   Kidnapped is the story of an upper middle class family in what I can only assume is Spain (Portugal maybe) as they settle into a new house. While getting adjusted they are going to celebrate their new home but struggle with convincing their daughter to stay in for the night. As they go through their squabbles their lives are torn apart by the intrusion of three masked men who break into their home to rob them. As the night goes on the terror rises because it seems that it isn’t just money these men want and suddenly the teenage daughter becomes the focus of one of the men. It is left to the family to save themselves, if they can, because there is no help coming, and hope is running short.

Here’s the thing, if you have seen one home invasion/home under siege movie in the last twenty + years you have just about seen them all. Last House set the template and Straw Dogs set the bar. Outside of that the modern ones are all pretty much the same – dumb family, cute daughter/woman, an over-brave/stupid husband (take your pick because they are either or with no real arc from one to the other), and drug addicted sadists as invaders that usually have rape in mind. Sure, sure, there are some that are different (The Strangers came close to being different and good and scary but it was so DUMB that it hurt me inside) but the template is set and that is it. Sometimes the victims survive, sometimes not, but in the end it’s an examination of suburban terrors. And it’s interesting, and it has its power but it is one of those subgenres that has never evolved.  The movies have gotten nastier, meaner, but aren’t really different. Enter Kidnapped, which trades new ideas and themes for interesting (almost daring) direction and a reality that wavers at the end.

The film is done in very few shots so that you have a sense of the urgency and terror of the family but this is broken up, as the tension, when the camera switches from one perspective to the other – from mother and daughter held captive by two of the men at the home to the father out with the third getting money from ATMs. Had the film kept the viewer as in the dark as the family is it would have made the film that much more powerful and haunting as our  minds ran out the rope of what could be happening that we are not seeing. There are some interesting turns in the film but like most of the others the family is too bold at the worst times and too cowardly at the worst times and it takes you out of the film as you want to scream out at them for being so stupid. What killed me though was a turn at the end that seemed just ridiculous for what it had established. This was a matter of choosing brutality over sense and it’s a shame. I like darkness as much as the next person but in some cases enough is enough.

And there’s the rub, the persistence of so many movies and filmmakers to cling to this brutality over story. In a movie like Serbian Film it has poignancy and adds to the heartbreak of the story, here though you never know the characters, never care for them so it plays like a bull fight where it is just violence for the sake and art of violence. A red play on a barren stage. Without the investment it means nothing. In the end the intention of the film is like so many other modern films and it clings to a black nihilism and fatalism that seems to say that these intruders are like Lovecraft’s Old Ones, gods that care not for us but to use and destroy us as they will or ignore us if they care to. And to a degree that is violence, but movies like this seem to want us to cower in fear from The Other that can invade and destroy our lives and not fight when we have no choice.

This is a well made, horribly dubbed film that will play to the crowd that is interested in this sort of fare. It is brutal, it is dark, and it gets very,very nasty. For me it all amounted to nothing. In a movie like Irreversible there is persistent darkness but the most horrifying scene in the film is overshadowed by a subtle, quiet, beautiful scene later on that, because of what we know, serves to press the point of why that earlier attack was made even more horrible. That is the power of films like this. Not to push our nose in excrement to prove a morbid point.

So sure, this is brutal and grim and all of that but in the end we’ve seen it before. Too many times. And I am ready for something different. I am hoping the next rash of home invasion films gives me that.

6 out of 10

my books – MEEP

SUMMER OF MASSACRE – review

­Summer of Massacre

          Ok, now I have seen everything.  It took a while but we finally got a horror movie trying to be Sin City.  Sort of.  The charm of Sin City though lay with its characters that they all intersected and interacted and lived in the backdrop of a surreal city where reality wavered.  Summer of Massacre though is one of those movies where they took the conceit of live film with digital backgrounds and effects and well, put them in a garbage disposal and hoped for the best.

Summer of Massacre is an anthology with four stories and a sort of a wrap-around.  The stories are dark, hyper-violent tales of murder and madness and rely heavily on digital special effects to push the boundaries with gore.  None of the four stories intertwine but are instead stories in their own place and time, though I would imagine that the idea is that all of this horror is happening during this ‘Summer of Massacre’.

The first story tells the story of a man out for a simple late night run who is horribly beaten and robbed by three men.  The men disfigure the runner and leave him for dead, though he is in a deep state of shock.  When another runner finds him and tries to help him he attacks and brutally murders her and then goes on a killing spree throughout the town.  There is no method to his madness, just a deep bloodlust.

The second story we have is about a fractured family perched on the edge.  When one of the daughters is forced to take her two siblings with her (all of the ‘kids’ are adults playing teens) her deep-seated anger bubbles to the surface.  Her handicapped sister is dying and disfigured and the sister decides it might be time to rid the family of her burden.  What she doesn’t anticipate though is what would happen if her disfigured sister should live through the murder attempt.

Our third tale is the most interesting of the bunch and focuses on a man about to make a deeper commitment in his relationship and so he decides to tell her about his past, a past that has been haunted since childhood by a monstrous figure bent on tormenting and killing him.  What he finds out though is that this thing is still hunting him and is getting closer than ever to finally having him all to its own.

The last story is a literal campfire story told at a religious camp about the legend that haunts the forest.  When the legend turns out to be real though the last survivors must find a way to escape or they’ll only add to the areas grim legacy.

See, on the surface the shorts sound interesting.  On the surface that is.  Sadly there is no beneath the surface here.  While each story could add nuances and subtleties it just isn’t there.  These are as straightforward as you could get, the focus being on the gore and violence.  The acting, what acting there is, seems almost improvised, and consists mainly of screaming.  The gore that is so prevalent throughout is made to be ridiculous because of the overuse of CG.  It’s this aspect that is so confusing about the film.  At first I thought the digital gore was to push the envelope and really go over the top but as the film progresses I started to wonder if this wasn’t just a gore comedy I wasn’t getting.  A joke that was beyond me.  The effects make me think that, the lack of story makes me think that, and the overall tone of nihilism makes me think that but, honestly, if this film is a joke, or a series of jokes, they fall flat.  Really flat.

This is one of those movies that made me hate reviewing films.  There was just nothing here for me to latch onto.  It is meanness and gore for the sake of meanness and gore and if you watch all the way through the credits the nihilism plays out to its seeming inevitable, albeit nonsensical, conclusion.  And that is the problem here, that there is so little logic that the film plays like a cartoon.  Again, maybe that was the point, but if so it didn’t work for me.  I never laughed, I never cringed (save for the performances and writing), and I never connected on any level with the film.  Clearly it wasn’t made for ‘me’. This is extreme party gore made to play to crowds of gorehounds who will laugh at every exploding head and evisceration. To me the movie played like a very juvenile exercise in extremes.  There is all but no plot, little acting, not much direction, and downright awful digital effects.  A lot of people will tout this as being ‘arty’ and that it is pushing the boundaries but really all it is doing is playing to the lowest common denominator and proving how bad horror films can get.  I admire the ambition of director/everything else Joe Castro to do so much on this film but in the end it’s an emotionless eyesore of a film that is memorable only for how bad it is.

1 out of 10

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Blackwood’s Guide to Dangerous Fairies – REVIEW

   EEE! I love books like this.  The strange tie in books you never hear about but which add a layer to another work, like a film.  I had a similar experience with the Blair Witch books that came out.  Books that created another layer of creep to an already scary story.  Here we have the journals of a character discussed and briefly seen in the recent horror film and in these journals you find out why the things in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark are so very frightful.  The guide is as much the story of Algernon Blackwood’s descent into obsession and madness as it is a guide to dangerous fairies but as you get into the book you realize that these two tales are really one in the same.  After being sold the remains of creature Blackwood cannot categorize or imagine he delves into the world of fairies and other creatures that lay hidden at the base of history.  In the book we are given illustrations and examples of many of these dangerous fairies but woven into all of it is the story and obsession of the ‘toothbreakers’ or ‘tooth fairies’, one of which is the body he had found.  But in his obsession with these things the tooth fairies begin to become aware of him and suddenly Blackwood has crossed a line that was not meant to be crossed.

   A very fun, very scary little book, this was a quick, fun read and is a great stand alone book as well as a fun companion piece.  There is also enough chills here to leave you with the lights on for a night or three.

Great read.

4.5 out of 5

The Blind Dead Collection – review

The Blind Dead Collection – movie review/s

            For us horror nerds there’s something wonderful about the undiscovered country of foreign and underground horror.  It’s the fact that this stuff isn’t in the mainstream that makes it so cool and desirable.  Even the bad stuff is lauded because it is different and unknown.  Such is the case for director Amanda De Ossorio’s The Blind Dead films, which are so different than the zombie films we’re used to that they warrant a look for that alone, but is curiosity all they can offer?

Yes and no.

Continue reading “The Blind Dead Collection – review”

Paranormal Activity – Chronology – REVIEW

So here’s the deal, I am a huge Paranormal Activity fan. I appreciate that the series has become the bane of existence for the hardcore horror fans and that for many it’s further evidence of the infection of sequels that plagues Hollywood but, well, I don’t care. The movies are fun, are scary, and have something of a fireside spook story to them. So, needless to say, when I learned that the movies were being released as ‘one’ movie, edited together so that they ran together chronologically, well, I was all aboard.

My major concern with buying the films this way though, and yeah, you totally have to purchase the file digitally, was how ‘chronological’ the films were. To edit them all together so that they ran as one film meant that you’d have to 1. change the initial vision of the directors (which would just take an ‘okey doke’ from them I’d imagine and 2. it would mean moving some footage around so that the films work cohesively. Going into things I was more than a little worried about my purchase. I mean, who wants to drop a bunch of money on something then have it totally not be what we were hoping? We all do it but it’s one of those things that is hard to not be bitter about.

Wow, I can happily say that my fears were unnecessary. This is indeed the Paranormal Activity played out as one film, seamlessly edited together and telling one story, from beginning to its disturbing conclusion. The Chronoly plays out this way – PA 3, 2, and finally with 1. What the Chronology does here is eliminate the introduction to the third film since it isn’t needed – no need for an introduction to a film at the beginning of the story. Instead we are given the story of how Katie and her sister Kristie were first introduced to the malevolent spirit that plagues them in their adult years. The added footage you get here is all pretty solid, most of it focusing on character building more than on scares but there are a couple good scares onhand as well. As the third film ends though it plays immediately into the opening for the second film and the series from here on presents the theatrical versions of the second and first films with one exception, a brief exorcism scene in the second film performed by Martine, the housekeeper. This is a very brief scene but is a good way to lead into the climax of the film and I honestly don’t remember seeing it before, even in the deleted scenes for film two. The first film plays out as it did in theaters until that is the ending, which deviates a little in that the Chronology ends with the very ending of the second film, which tells what happened to sister Kristie’s family and baby Hunter after they had passed the attention of the demon ‘Toby’ on to sister Katie and her boyfriend. Ending the Chronology this way gives things a very bleak, grim ending that leaves you with a cliffhanger that still has yet to be addressed.

I honestly couldn’t be happier with the way the Chronology was put together and presented. I really wish it would have had the ‘director’s cuts’ of all three films but it is what it is. I will say that seeing all three films this way is a pretty hefty task. It’s a lot of film in one sitting. And the way it plays out it does call into question a lot of logic questions – why do they refer to things in the firs film that seem to be proven as false in the third? Who can say? It doesn’t kill the creepy mood of the films but, well, it is a bit of simple logic that seems to have been neglected as the series progressed.

All in all, I can’t say I’d recommend purchasing Paranormal Activity – Chronology unless you are a hardcore fan. If you are, it’s a great watch. Otherwise, it’s my hope that this will be presented as a rental eventually, or even a double dip so people can purchase a physical version. It’s a great achievment for nerds that is nearly perfect. Close but not quite. It’s awfully fun just the same.

8.5 out of 10

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