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The Fields (2011)

The FieldsDirectors: Tom Mattera, David Mazzoni
Screenplay: Harrison Smith
Starring: Tara Reid, Cloris Leachman, Faust Checho, Joshua Ormond
Certificate: 15
Running time: 100 minutes
Release date: 27 August 2012

The cornfield is a horror trope that has been used countless times and it is utilised here yet again, to decent effect. The tall stalks can hide a myriad of horrors and on this occasion, they do just that.

It is 1973: Bonnie (Reid) and Barry (Checho) are suffering real marriage problems that eventually lead Barry to point a loaded shotgun into the face of his wife, in full view of their son Steven (Ormond). While they try and work out the pretty major kinks in their relationship, Steven is sent to live with his grandparents, who live in an isolated farmhouse surrounded by the eponymous fields of corn. Steven is warned not to go investigating amongst the cornrows but, being a kid, he ignores this advice and finds the body of a young woman. His grandparents don’t believe him and he’s scolded for ignoring them. Meanwhile, a beat-up old VW van housing some lousy beatniks is seen around town, driven by a guy with three girls in tow. All this is set against the events surrounding the Manson family being imprisoned for their crimes, specifically regarding their murder of the heavily pregnant Sharon Tate, which lead Steven into becoming worried that they might escape and hurt him.

Further forays into the cornfield supply the young boy with yet more interesting sights to behold, until his grandparent’s house comes under attack from some unseen assailants who smash windows and hide under beds. This turn of events finally causes Steven’s parents to put aside their differences in order to protect their son.

The film has chosen a time period that allows a sense of dread to be built up, especially considering Steven’s inability to understand that the Manson family can’t hurt him as they’ve been jailed. The main issue here is that, while the film does manage some nice moments (such as the camera panning through the field like the camera does through the sea in the opening scenes of Jaws – putting the viewer on edge as to whether something’s going to pop out at the screen or not – and the isolation created by the setting), it doesn’t really follow them through. You’re never entirely sure if the beatniks, who may or may not be the crux of all the issues, are actually real or not, or whether the events are all the work of a single guy who works in the local milk factory. It’s even possible that it may all be in Steven’s imagination. There are some standout moments here, including the boy throwing sticks with an unseen someone in the field itself and someone lying under his bed, pinging his bedsprings while he lies on top.

If this had been tighter creatively, then we may have had a minor cult classic on our hands. Instead, we’ve got a jumble of good ideas and a real missed opportunity.

 JD GILLAM

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