After his violent father threatens his alcoholic mother at gunpoint, young Steven is sent to stay with his grandparents on their farm. After hearing a news report of the now infamous Manson murders, Steven becomes convinced that Manson’s “family will be coming for him. Soon after, some unseen presence begins stalking the family from the depths of the corn fields surrounding their home.
Horror is a much-maligned genre due to many people’s perception that it’s little more than nubile teens being stalked by masked madmen or supernatural entities. The isolated farm setting of The Fields (not to mention the DVD cover) gives the impression that it will involve the accidental summoning of something like an undead scarecrow or vengeful nature spirit. However, it’s nothing of the sort.
Almost the entire film is told from the perspective of Steven, through the filter of a child’s vivid imagination and all of the myriad irrational fears that come with it being perceived as very real possibilities. Because of this, we can’t ever be sure how much of what we’re seeing is real and how much is the invention of his overactive imagination. The early discovery of a dead body in the corn field could be just that, or it might have been an animal corpse that his fevered imaginings transformed into a person.
Steven watching films like Carnival Of Souls and Night Of The Living Dead gives an indication of the origin of his predilection for imaging the worst in any situation, and the flashbacks of his parents’ violently disintegrating marriage also give an equally plausible source of his emotional troubles.
The film is based on screenwriter Harrison Smith’s childhood memories, and this personal connection to perceived events gives them a degree of authenticity. Just because there is no rational reason for Charles Manson to come after Steven does not mean that he won’t be terrified of the possibility, and the silent leering of creepy redneck locals certainly doesn’t help matters.
It’s unusual for the central characters in any film to be two pensioners and a kid, but the trio of performances, particularly from the young Joshua Ormond, are engaging and touching responses to three people put together in undesirable circumstances, and their fear for one another when events escalate are recognisably human.
Overall Verdict: Slow-burning and low-key but compelling and unsettling, The Fields is an intriguing kind of horror psychological but visual with a deep human element at its core that’s all too rare.
Reviewer: Andrew Marshall