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The Fields (2011)
Breaking Glass Pictures
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/24/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/10/2012
There are plenty of people out there who pick movies based solely on the actors who appear in them. (I know, I've been to the video store with these people.) They disregard the plot or the director and look solely at the cast. Which begs the question; Can the converse be true? Are there people who avoid movies based on the actors in the film? What if I tried to sell you on a horror movie starring Cloris Leachman and Tara Reid? How does that grab you? Would you choose a movie with this odd couple? That's the challenge facing the marketing team behind The Fields.
Set in 1973, The Fields takes places in the Pennsylvania countryside. Bonnie (Tara Reid) and Charlie (Brian Anthony Wilson) are a couple who are constantly arguing. Things come to a head when Bonnie comes home late one night and Charlie pulls a gun on her...right in front of their young son, Steven (Joshua Ormond). While they work things out, Steven is sent to live with his grandparents, Hiney (Bev Appleton) and Gladys (Cloris Leachman), on their farm. On the way there, Steven hears a news report about Charles Manson and begins to worry that the Manson family is coming after him. Once on the farm, Steven begins to explore, even disobeying Gladys and going into the corn fields. Steven sees some hippies in the area and wonders if they are like the Mansons. Soon, strange noises and moving shadows are seen on the farm.
In the past, we've discussed how a great idea isn't enough to carry a movie and The Fields is a perfect example of this. The Manson trials were big news and they captured the attention of the nation. It's a novel concept, and a rather ingenious one, that children weren't immune to these stories and would be afraid as well. It's too bad that the movie doesn't take this any further. It's as if screenwriter Harrison Smith, who based some elements of the film on his real life, created the characters and the primary story and then ran out of gas. Once Steven reaches the farm and we meet his grandparents and their acquaintances, not much happens. The movie starts going in the right direction at times, but then veers away. Steven finds something disturbing in the corn...and nothing happens. Steven learns that the hippies are living in a local amusement part...and nothing happens. A home invasion almost happens...and nothing happens. After presenting us with very little over the course of the film, the movie makes the mistake of giving us an ambiguous ending.
The story doesn't get any help from some logistical issues. Steven is the center of the film and Joshua Ormond isn't prepared to carry the movie. His blank, moon-like face doesn't convey the emotion necessary to bring the audience into the movie. Steven is our link to the movie and his dull expression tells us nothing. The movie lets us know that Steven has a vivid imagination as we watch him at play. So, was some of what he saw only in his mind? I don't know. The movie tells us that some things are true, but many questions go unanswered. It's clear that Directors Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni have attempted to create a sense of tension, but the key moments which are obviously meant to be jarring are either limp or non-sensical.
As a child, I dreaded spending the night at my grandmother's house, as it was very creepy. The Fields brought back some of these memories, but unfortunately, that was as close as the movie got to being scary or disturbing. I admire the DIY spirit of those involved in the movie and, again, I liked the novel idea. Outside of Ormond, the acting is pretty good. Leachman is funny in her crotchety role, and Reid is actual good and believable as a young mother. But, the lack of story and slack pacing make the film a challenge to watch.
The Fields contains one of the most awkwardly shot conversations in a dairy barn ever on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. The movie was shot on HD equipment, but it still shows some grain in some shots. The image is somewhat washed out at times, but some colors look good. The daytime scenes are fine, but some of the nighttime shots are a bit dark. The level of detail is admirable, but the picture is somewhat flat. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are OK, as they highlight some off-screen sounds. The surround effects come into play during the home invasion scene, but they aren't very detailed. I didn't note any overt subwoofer effects.
The Fields Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. "Behind the Scenes: The Making of The Fields" (19 minutes) contains comments from the filmmakers and the cast. We get on-set footage, as well as Screenwriter Harrison Smith's home movies which show the real Pappy and Gladys. There is a lot of detail in how the project came together and what the production was like. "Real Stories & Faces Behind the Film" contains 14 short selections which examine several different facets of the film. This includes details on the real-life story, a profile of the real Hiney and Gladys, a look at the real locations, and profiles of the filmmakers. "Hey, No Funny Stuff" (3 minutes) is a gag reel showing on-set shenanigans. "Ladies & Gentlemen, Cloris Leachman!" (94 seconds) is another gag reel showing the actress attempting to do an intro to the film. The extras are rounded out by a PHOTO GALLERY and the TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long