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The Fields
Starring: Cloris Leachman, Tara Reid, Faust Checho, and
Directed by: Tom Mattera, David Mazzon

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The Fields is a perfect thrill-filled horror flick. There’s no gore, no screaming soundtrack, and no naked coeds flashing big new implants at you in 3D – so if you’re under say 30, you may not appreciate the style. I, personally, feel this was the scariest film I have seen since the original Chainsaw Massacre ruined countless nights of sleep all those years ago.

Corn fields – the fields they reference here – are some how creepy; always have been. Add to that filming when the corn is gone, and the six foot carcasses of stalk line up to create their own Halloween-worthy forest scape…one’s imagination can roam into a frenzied Fearland at the mere thought of a crow taking flight.

That being said, the story goes…It’s 1973, and young Steven’s (Joshua Ormond) parents are having a few problems. His overseers are too busy suspecting and accusing to allow focus to fall on the youngin’. So, off to grandma’s house he goes.

His father’s parents’ place. This quirky duo is a long-married tough sonovabitch sort. Gladys (Cloris Leachman) is eccentric and delightfully foul-mouthed, in that way many of us recall our own grand parents using the forbidden words as colorful adjectives. Hiney (Bev Appleton) is the sweet grandfather – he still has his post-deviling sparkle twinkling in those old eyes of his though.

Their humble farm rests against a corn field; the kind that, while off-putting, beckons for perusal. Naturally little Steven is drawn in like any horror tale’s main character…especially when he is told he better not go in there or he’ll end up, as his loving grandma likes to point out, black and bloated and dead.

Faster than you can say, “Godzilla has attacked Toyk…” the lad sneaks within.

At this point of the film, you are petrified. All they’ve done is play some mood-altering music, showed a dysfunctional family’s secrets, and reminded you about the Manson trial presently in their headlines.

But, you are there with Steven. He’s a curious, smart kid. Still he is a child. He sincerely ponders that this Manson chap could be out and about, taking their exit to get some fresh veggies and whatnots. Sure, Steven is in Pennsylvania, and Manson is behind bars in California - but Steven heard the phrase parole on the radio and that’s enough to ignite his nightmares.

Manson aside, something’s up, and Steven is tuned in to it. And you’re watching all this from his perspective.

The Fields is brilliant. Screenwriter B. Harrison Smith wove a fine freckled fearfest here. Each of the characters is deeply built. Here, you won’t find yourself yelling at the kuckudoo-for-brains characters for their stupid reactions; they are scared too - and they listen. You get the feeling the film makers crossed their T’s and made sure people in this film were on the ball. From editing, location, clothes, set design – they didn’t hand you an, "Oh come on!” moment once.

You genuinely winced and begged Steve to get the hell outta there, and when he visits his “odd” aunt, you skeeve through the whole section of frames. That's the secret of The Fields' success; continued simple empathetic manipulations of the celluloid canvas before you.

Joshua Ormond (Steven) is simply delightful. His face tells the story, and his ability to share fear is incredible; a lot was on this young actor’s shoulders and he pulled off an Atlas-style showing. His parents Tara Reid and Faust Checho are spot on as young adults in a strained marriage. Johnson as Hiney is fabulous. And, let's be frank...I don’t adore too many actor folks; one of my personal chickbabe idols, Cloris Leachman is one holding the Royal Flush at this high-stakes table of career-making hands. Leachman wields her “Gladys” like she’s channeling some lower-middle-class grandma’s skeleton-filled closet’s soul. And, many of her lines make you bellow aloud towards the screen. Yet, her fear and care for the child are clear as a mosquito tableau in the finest Soviet amber (Watch her and I at The Pirate’s of the Caribbean Red Carpet – she does a bit from High Anxiety).

Get this. From The Fields' first atmospheric frame you can just tell this quiet film is gonna scare the bejeesus out of you. The people behind the film have grand futures. And, Joshua Ormond will be walking some red shaded carpets soon; let’s hope he has a good support system to avoid his own E! True Hollywood Story special.

Snack recommendation: Peppermint tea (to sooth the fear-tension-fueled bile building in your stomach), and a pack of Camels.

DVD Includes a few behind-the-scenes, and hangin' with Cloris!


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