The Fields (2011)
The year is 1973. After witnessing his father point a gun at his mother late one night, young Steven goes to stay with his Nanny and Pappy at their farmhouse. On the way to his grandparents, Steven hears a news report on the radio about Charles Manson and the Manson Murders and begins to panic, worrying Manson’s infamous ‘Family’ is going to come after him whilst he sleeps.
Whilst his parents try to patch things up for the sake of their son, Steven plays in the farmhouse garden but then curiously wanders into the tall corn fields, forbidden by his grandmother. When he stumbles across a dead woman’s body deep within the corn fields, he rushes back to the safety of the farm, but dead bodies aren’t the only things lurking in his grandparents fields.
Everything around him suddenly becomes a threat to Steven, from people he meets and sees to strange sounds in the night. His nightmare becomes frighteningly real when Steven and his grandparents are menaced by unseen enemies in the night. With the threat becoming increasing violent, can the grandparents protect the young boy from what lies beyond the corn?
The Fields is a superb, tense thriller that gradually builds tension and fear into the heart of the viewer. The script is humourous and engaging to watch, and whilst it may not be very intellectual, it is rather real. The cause of concern for Steven starts right at the beginning of the film when his hot-headed father loses his rag with his wife and poor Steven bear witness to his father pointing a shotgun straight at his mother’s face. Frightened and fragile, his mother, played by American Pie and Big Lebowski actress Tara Reid, decides it’s for the best that Steven stays with her mother-in-law and father-in-law whilst she tries to make amends with Steven’s father. The young boy finds solace in his Godzilla toys and seems to enjoy staying at his grandparents’ home but the constant media coverage of the Manson Murders strikes yet more fear into his little heart.
Joshua Ormond takes the lead as young lad Steven and does an incredible job in carrying the majority of the film. He’s a likeable, adventurous boy who looks like he could be a young Mick Hucknall with his curly hair. Steven’s curiosity gets the better of him at times but his grandfather Hiney (played by Bev Appleton), known as Pappy to Steven, does his best to protect and entertain his grandson. The most amusing character in The Fields is definitely Steven’s grandmother, Gladys, played by Cloris Leachman who, at the age of 85, starred in this film after a lifetime of parts in television and movies, the number of credits at which will make your eyes water. Cloris glows as foul-mouthed nanny, Gladys, who’s every other word is a curse word and has no problem in frightening her grandson to death with tales of the murder of Sharon Tate at the hands of the Manson Family and of how he could end up dead and black if he wanders into those ‘goddamn’ cornfields. Bev Appleton bounces off her vocal personality as her hen-pecked husband and scenes with them both together and even just her alone are hilarious. One certain scene springs to mind when Gladys, Hiney and Steven visit Gladys’ deranged sister, Grace. Hiney just sits there and pulls out his false teeth and starts playing with them whilst Gladys elbows him in order to stop. They bicker like a couple who’ve been married forever but they clearly love each other very much as seen in later scenes when they come under attack from an unknown presence.
The conclusion or ‘pay-off’ in The Fields may not fulfil most horror fan’s needs. The film proudly concentrates on story, characters and scenery in order to build the suspense to tell a story. The film is based on writer B. Harrison Smith’s childhood memories of the intimidating and inexplicable events of his own grandparent’s farm. This film explores the fears of a child, seen through the eyes of a young boy and ponders the intentions of strangers in this dangerous time and place we live in. The horrific events of the late 60’s and subsequent trials in the early 70’s of Charles Manson and his hippie followers would have caused a sense of dread and fear for most people, especially a young child who is both curious and afraid of the world around him. The Fields represents this child’s living nightmare well and whilst it may not have the big, ugly enemy reveal, the facts that remain are far more unsettling.