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The Independent Critic

Joshua Ormond, Cloris Leachman, Tara Reid, Bev Appleton, and Faust Checho
Tom Matters & David Mazzoni
B. Harrison Smith
NR (Equiv. to "R")
95 Mins.
Breaking Glass Pictures (DVD/Blu-Ray)

  • Making-of Documentary
  •  Cloris Outtakes
  • World Premiere with Cloris
  • Behind-the-scenes featurettes

 "The Fields" Review 
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A psychological thriller based upon true events from 1973, The Fields recently picked up the prize for Best Feature at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival and has also picked up a distribution deal with Fabrication Films.

Steven (Joshua Ormond) and his parents, Bonnie (Tara Reid) and Barry (Faust Checho), have escaped to a family farm in an effort for Bonnie and Barry to work on their marriage while Steven is watched over by his grandparents, Hiney (Bev Appleton) and Gladys (Cloris Leachman). However, something's not right on this small-town farm and before long the solitude and peace the family expected is interrupted by a mysterious presence that keeps emerging from, you guessed it, the fields. The violence continues to escalate, but before this mysterious presence can be stopped its identity must be discovered.

While Academy Award-winner Cloris Leachman and box-office success Tara Reid understandably obtain top billing here, The Fields is clearly led by young Joshua Ormond, a relative newcomer to feature films with a background in commercials. Ormond looks like he could easily show up in either a Children of the Corn sequel or, for that matter, The Omen. Ormond perfectly sells his portrayal of young Steven, a boy who is obviously psychologically wounded from his parents' repeated conflicts yet who also displays a remarkable vulnerability on-screen that makes his character constantly sympathetic. In this heady and complex thriller, Ormond is head-and-shoulders above everyone else on the screen.

The odds are pretty strong that once you read the name Tara Reid in the film's description that you immediately scoffed and thought to yourself "Oh god, not another one." Let's face it, Reid has been more tabloid fodder than steady cinematic presence yet, if you'll remember, she's always had marvelous potential. While it's unlikely that Reid will see any awards come her way here, her performance as the mostly absent mother with just enough of a maternal streak to make you believe she'll turn things around is Reid's best work in years (though whoever decided on her hair style should be flogged).

On the flip side of that coin is Cloris Leachman, an Academy Award-winning actress who has seen a resurgence in her career as of late largely owing to her critically acclaimed performances in Spanglish and for her Emmy nomination this year for Guest Actress in a Comedy for Raising Hope. Leachman has always been a very fluid actress, an actress capable of flowing through a whirlwind of emotions all within one film. Here, she takes what amounts to a stock "Granny" character and literally owns the screen with her as a woman who appears simultaneously vulnerable, strong, protective and, at times, downright funny. In other words, it's a quintessential Leachman performance. Fausto Checho, as Barry, and Bev Appleton, as Hiney, also do a fine job in rounding out the main cast.

There are times when it looks like The Fields is going to take the leap into B-movie territory, but co-directors Tom Matters and David Mazzoni (The Fourth Dimension) always rein it back in. If you've ever doubted the importance of the technical aspects of filmmaking, then The Fields is the perfect film for you to see. D.P. Daniel Watchulonis lenses the film beautifully, weaving together both small-town serenity and its darker underbelly. Without ever going over-the-top, Watchulonis's imagery lends the film both beautiful an ominous imagery. John Avarese's original music also complements the film's varying tones quite nicely, at times a thundering presence and at other times bordering on stillness.

The Fields is penned by B. Harrison Smith, a Pennsylvania native who still vividly recalls a summer at his grandparent's farm where such eerie happenings occurred as phone lines being cut and shadowy figures lurking in the cornfields. Filmed on location in several cities throughout Pennsylvania, The Fields may feel a tad familiar but Smith has developed rich characters and, for the most part, given them believable dialogue despite these larger than life circumstances as lived out by young Steven.

For more information on The Fields, visit The Fields website and be sure to watch out for a theatrical release. Oh, and stay out of the cornfields. I'm just sayin'.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic