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Sunday, May 5, 2013

DARK FIELDS -- movie review by porfle

It took two guys (Mark McNabb, Allan Randall) to direct this Canadian slasher flick, dDARK FIELDS (2006), about a group of teens who run out of gas on their way to a rock concert (in the middle of nowhere, natch) and have to hoof it to the nearest big, creepy house for help. I don't know why--this sort of story is so rote by now that it probably could've been directed by the dog from "The Beverly Hillbillies" with equal results.

There's a "who cares" feeling about the whole thing, beginning with a script that rehashes familiar elements from TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (teens on their way to a rock concert try to bum gas at an isolated farmhouse and end up being slaughtered by an inbred psycho who regards them as animals) and every other slasher flick with teens being stalked by an unstoppable killer. Although the elements are there, nothing interesting or exciting is done with them--once the basic premise is established, it's just a lot of creeping around in the dark and screaming. Lots of screaming. (I was really hoping the "Justine" character would hurry up and get killed just so she'd finally shut up.)

The only thing that distinguishes most of these "Chain Saw Lite" clones is an interesting killer like Leatherface. DARK FIELDS has Farmer Brown, a pudgy guy in overalls who has long hair hanging over his face. (The original title, believe it or not, was FARMER BROWN.) He looks like one of those geeks you see eating snakes at the county fair, but as a slasher character, he barely registers. The teenagers run around from one building to the next, through "dark fields", but wherever they try to hide, Farmer Brown pops up and they start screaming again and run somewhere else. Now and then they get lucky and manage to whack him over the head with a shovel or impale him with something, but he just keeps coming, even though there's nothing supernatural about him. There's nothing interesting or scary about him, either--he's just plain old Farmer Brown.

Gorehounds will be disappointed, too, since, aside from some spurting blood and a brief shot of a severed limb, there's very little carnage and none of the "creative deaths" that sometimes make even the worst of this genre worth watching for fans of such stuff. One character's demise isn't even shown--he just disappears, which is what leads everyone else to wander around the dark farmhouse and surrounding buildings looking for him in the first place. For a "body count" flick, that's a wasted opportunity. And there's no nudity, either, except for a shot of one of the guys with his butt cheeks pressed against the window of a station wagon. Yikes.

An effort is made early on to establish a parallel between the teenagers and the animals Farmer Brown slaughters on his farm--shots of our heroine Taylor (Jenna Scott) getting dressed for school are intercut with glimpses of Farmer Brown tending cows and beheading a rooster, kids hustling down the school hallway are likened to sheep being herded to slaughter--but the filmmakers never really follow through with any of this. Farmer Brown's motivations aren't even that interesting--when he was a kid, his family was ravaged by bad guys who showed up at the farm one day to ask for some gas, so now he hangs around the crumbling old home place and kills anybody else who comes around asking for gas. Why doesn't he just open up a gas station?

The teenagers themselves are the usual crew: there's the pretty girl, Taylor; the handsome jock, Josh (Eric Phillion), who takes time out from searching for their missing friend to have a romantic interlude with Taylor in the hayloft; the sex-starved couple, Zack and Justine, who can't keep their hands off of each other; and the nerd, Drew, who is included only because nobody else in the group had access to the family car that night. Jenna Scott ("Taylor") is pretty cute, and she's in almost every scene, which is about the only reason I had to stay with this movie till the end. Josh is a likable enough character too, but as for the rest of them, I couldn't wait for the killings to begin, which doesn't happen until about halfway through, and, as mentioned before, they're pretty mild. If you're a fan of running around, hiding, screaming, and stuff like that, you may enjoy this. Otherwise, it's pretty boring.

There's one really cool, unexpected shot--Justine is being strangled by Farmer Brown, and Jenna steps up and gives him a roundhouse sock to the jaw--but that's about it. By the time the end came, I was actually hoping for a couple of those false "he's not really dead" endings that I usually hate, but the movie just runs out of gas like Drew's mom's station wagon. The end credits are interspersed with bloopers--this is the most entertaining eight minutes of the movie, even though the bloopers themselves aren't that funny--and I got the impression the filmmakers had more fun putting this sequence together than the rest of the film as a whole, which is not a good thing.

I'm giving DARK FIELDS a semi-kudo because Jenna Scott is nice to look at. Otherwise, you'd probably have a better time hanging around in a dark field yourself.

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