17th Jul2017

Fantasia 2017: ‘The Honor Farm’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Olivia Applegate, Katie Folger, Dora Madison, Will Brittain, Louis Hunter, Jonny Mars, Liam Aiken, Mackenzie Astin, Josephine McAdam, Christina Parrish, Michael Eric Reid | Written by Karen Skloss, Jasmine Skloss Harrison, Jay Tonne, Jr. | Directed by Karen Skloss


The gown, the hairstyling, the limousine, the prom date – all the familiar details that make up graduation night, that inevitable ritual of passage into adulthood. Lucy (Olivia Grace Applegate) still does not have peace of mind – “Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions?” she asks her best friend, while they retouch their makeup. When her date turns out to be a total disappointment, abruptly ending the fairy tale, the fantasy seems to have evaporated. But then some classmates, who’ve arrived in a hearse, extend her a most intriguing invitation: a magic-mushroom trip out in the wilderness, in an abandoned prison farm (haunted, according to urban legend). So the second part of Lucy’s night begins, during which she’ll have to confront her deepest fears and desires, halfway between dream and nightmare.

The debut feature of documentarian Karen Skloss, The Honor Farm opens strong. So strong that I had high hopes that we were in for Excision levels of genre filmmaking – for that’s the impression the otherworldy imagery of the credits sequence gave. Especially when we discover Lucy’s visions of being sexually violated and in fact are a metaphor for the “violation” Lucy is feeling at the hands of her dentist, all the while undergoing a teeth-whitening procedure! Yet whislt the strange, nightmarish images continue throughout the film, the accompanying story leaves something to be desired and never lives up to that early promise.

It’s safe to say The Honor Farm is going to be a devisive movie. On the one hand you have a coming of age drama, about a teenage girl finding herself admist the backdrop of a Blair Witch-esque scary urban legend location. On the other you have a film that features a bunch of teens heading out to an abandoned prison building where strange things happen. Neither works succesfully, leaving the film somewhat adrift when it comes to finding its audience.

Spouting lyrically about how “prom is a ritual”, “what if when you die you realise life is just one big dream”, Lucy being told to “make a choice” by her Id/Ego and spending way too long staring longingly at the moon, I was expecting some Breakfast Club style soul-searching and we got that – though in this case the end result was less life-changing and more ‘WTF?’. There are some interesting moments in all this teenage angst – in particular Lucy being asked by a deer headed woman to solve a riddle but… and this is where it gets frustrating… the answer to the riddle is to conform to peer pressure and have sex with a guy she’s only known for the duration of the film! Lucy got into this situation by not conforming and now she is? Hey, at least they got the fickle teenage mind down pat!

In terms of horror, The Honor Farm is more inclined to conform to its own peers, featuring almost every cliche imaginable – even down to featuring a f*cking goat (The Witch has a LOT to answer for)! Our protagonists try and contact the dead; there’s a disembowelled deer, for some unexplained reason; some strange graffitti on the walls; and shadowy figures who may or may not be the guys also currently ‘looting’ the prison. Yes, ALL and I do mean all, the haunted house / scary movie tropes are here, but The Honor Farm does absolutely nothing with them. It’s almost as if Skloss and co. were more interested in their visual impact rather than using them for storytelling purposes.

Ultimately The Honor Farm turns out to be little more than the thoughts of a wannabe teenage philopsopher whose seen one too many scary movies, teasing the audience with a promise of terrors it never delivers…

** 2/5

The Honor Farm screens at Fantasia 2017 on July 15th, with a repeat screening on July 17th.


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