Being a kid on a farm is really friggin' boring sometimes. Much like the kid at the center of The Fields, I was once a kid on a farm too - I feel his pain. Granted, I was a kid on a farm who had to do farm work and who had a satellite dish and a Super Nintendo Entertainment System at his disposal. But, when I wasn't busy winning Home Run Derbys with Ken Griffey Jr. and when Wayne's World 2 or Last Action Hero weren't on HBO and when I didn't have to help my dad castrate pigs or lift bales of straw - well, then I sometimes got bored.
Since this kid is on a farm in 1973 and comes from a broken family (who'd have guessed that Tara Reid wouldn't be the world's most stable mother?) - he has to deal with a lot more boredom than I did. Which means he decides to not listen to his grandma, played by one of the greatest Iowans of all-time Cloris Leachman, and starts playing around in the fields that surround their farmhouse. We know that's a bad choice - partly because the movie makes it seem pretty ominous, partly because it's the damn title - but it takes a long time for us to figure out why.
Instead, we get a prolonged look into the psyche of young Steven, the real star of the film, a curly haired kid who I kept expecting to shout "O'Doyle Rules!". (Yes, it's a Billy Madison reference. HE LOOKED LIKE THOSE KIDS, alright?) But then again, I'm not entirely sure what we learn about Steven, except that he likes Godzilla and Ultraman (WHO THE HECK DOESN'T?) and runs around in corn fields while his Grandpa is nice to him and Cloris Leachman watches horror movies - if nothing else we get glimpses at Carnival of Souls and Night of the Living Dead during the film.
The Fields thinks it's a lot more dramatic than it appears to be. Everything is presented with a kind of graceful and subdued tone, and the film does a good job of giving everything an autumnal color scheme that goes along with the mood the directors seem to desire. It's all well and good in the looks department - even if those looks are rather drab and unappealing - but that doesn't really matter when very little drama actually happens.
Look, it's OK to try and be something bigger and more interesting than your standard indie horror film - I definitely appreciated the fact that The Fields wasn't another gorefest full of torture and teenage idiocy - but you gotta offer the viewer something more than a half-cocked story about kinda crazy folks that look like the family from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's normal cousins from Ohio. Seriously, if this movie was set in a desert the title would be The Hills Have An Unstable Temper But Really Aren't Scary.
It can't have that title though, because there's those darn Fields.
The Fields is now on DVD via our friends over at Breaking Glass Pictures, so feel free to learn more about it at their site or at the film's official site. It's not the worst thing I've seen in a long time, but it did little more than remind me of how boring farm living would have been without Schwarzenegger, Griffey Jr. and Wayne & Garth.