11th May2013

‘The Fallow Field’ Review

by Mark Allen

Stars: Michael Dacre, Steve Garry | Written and Directed by Leigh Covey


El Mariachi has a lot to answer for. As does Clerks. Both were made in the early ‘90s on incredibly low budgets ($9,000 and $30,000 respectively; Clerks filmmaker Kevin Smith famously maxed out all of his credit cards to finance the film) and achieved previously unheard-of success from new directors, as supposedly ‘independent’ film budgets of that era – like those of Reservoir Dogs and Sex, Lies and Videotape – came in at around the $1million mark. This helped to kick-start guerrilla movements and independent movies proper, and surely had some impact on bringing us to our crowdfunded present, where dead TV shows can be resurrected by the cash of fans and a boatload of promises. It also sent an unfortunate if optimistic message to the general populace of the world:

We made a feature film without any money. Why don’t you?

Now, I’m not saying I want to live in a world without movies like Clerks and El Mariachi or the filmmakers who conceived them, but when I watch a film like The Fallow Field I often catch myself thinking that we might have been better off if no-one had seen his black-and-white arthouse comedy and he’d simply gone bankrupt.

Yeah, it’s going to be another one of those reviews.

Billing itself as “Memento meets Wolf Creek” – which is in itself a ludicrous bar to set for a film with a paltry (according to IMDB) £9,000 budget – The Fallow Field is an exercise in murky-to-nonexistent plot, dull, pretentious camerawork and the kind of bad acting usually reserved for compensation adverts. Writer-director Leigh Covey places us somewhere in deepest, darkest Sussex as Matt, a supposed amnesiac who’s just been dumped by both his wife and mistress (who has the decency to bone him before dropping him like a bad habit, thus meeting the naked flesh quota required for budget horror flicks) and ends up returning to a mysterious farm, where a quite obviously evil and insane farmer invites him in for tea and then, wholly unsurprisingly, murders his dumb ass which, somewhat surprisingly, he’s apparently done before. He proceeds to bury Matt in a field and before long he’s up and walking again, albeit chained up and forced to help the farmer carry out more gruesome murders and resurrections until he’s had enough of it.

All of that suggests at least some kind of coherent narrative, which unfortunately isn’t the case, as the drawn-out dialogue serves to confuse rather than intrigue and most scenes extend far beyond the limits of normal human patience (or at least mine, anyway). It struck me while watching that The Fallow Field would have been way, way better off being made as a short film; its premise of a stretch of land having astonishing, if temperamental, regenerative powers is at least an interesting one, but not one that can really be sustained by tiresome dialogue and bad acting over 90 minutes. And the title alone is enough to pre-bore an audience – before popping the disc into my player and seeing a disfigured hand on the title screen, I had no idea it was supposed to be a horror flick. ‘Fallow’ isn’t exactly high on the list of horror buzzwords, is it?

So while it tries to compel, scare and be atmospherically creepy (though it does occasionally succeed on this front, the score setting an eerie tone in some of the early scenes), The Fallow Field fails to materialise into anything approaching a satisfying horror experience, and will likely drive viewers to their smartphones and laptops long before the credits roll – which, incidentally, contain the best part of the movie: a rollicking rock song that’s totally and utterly out of the step with the proceedings, and all the better for it.

The Fallow Field is out on DVD now.

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