For some reason, Cloris Leachman and Tara Reid both receive top billing in the advertising for the new horror film, The Fields. Leachman deserves the honor, but Reid, an alumna of the American Pie franchise, is hardly present in the creep-fest. Taking her spot should be Joshua Ormond, a newcomer who turns in a solid performance as Steven, an 8-year-old with an adventurous mind.
Steven is sent to live with his paternal grandparents (Leachman and Bev Appleton) after his parents (Reid and Faust Checho) get into a violent altercation. At the old homestead, Steven is given a few rules, but none more serious than this one: Stay out of the cornfields.
The movie becomes an exercise in how well Steven can stay away from the dangers in the cornfield — dangers that are never fully identified, but they feel positively spooky. The few times where he does venture into the stalks, he’s met with a feast of visuals that are difficult to explain.
Filmakers Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni are able to build some necessary atmosphere into the piece, and this helps mitigate the weaknesses of the bare-bones script by Harrison Smith. There are very few conventional scares in the 98-minute feature, but everyone seems to be on edge throughout the entire duration. We’re not entirely sure what’s going on, and that’s because the story is presented from the perspective of an 8-year-old. We only hear drips and drabs of what might be in the cornfields, what might have gone wrong with grandmother’s side of the family and why daddy raised a gun to mommy’s head. There’s violence everywhere, but its never obvious or easy to decipher.
The weirdest sequence involves a visit to the house of grandma’s sister. It’s a surreal scene that feels ripped from a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film. It’s definitely one of those scenes that needs to be seen to be believed.
Leachman, Appleton and Ormond are the main draws in the acting department. They all play their flawed characters with a realistic touch. They make us believe in the 1973 Pennsylvania setting. The same cannot be said of Reid, who sports what looks to be a terrible wig and finds herself in an underwritten role. Another actress, or a complete rewrite of the character, would have been better.
The end result of The Fields doesn’t add up to much, but the journey into this darkness can be somewhat fun. Audience members should look and listen for hints about how a national murder case fits into the narrative.
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
Directed by Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni
Written by Harrison Smith
Starring Cloris Leachman, Tara Reid, Joshua Ormond, Faust Checho and Bev Appleton
Running time: 98 minutes