It may be hard for all of you to believe, but Big Gay Horror Fan didn’t really fit in with the rest of the cool, shit kicking kids in the small country town that he grew up in. And while, retrospectively, I find nothing wrong with milking cows, chasing Amish buggies and Saturday nights spent at the Moose lodge, I am very happy to be sporting my big city sombrero now.
Still, small town life has informed me in numerous ways, both compassionate (ah, the puppies!) and cheesy (with my lifelong love of backwoods horror as a categorical example, here), and gives me an emotional ‘in’ for quiet terror flicks like Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni’s The Fields.
Released on DVD and Blu-ray disc in April by Breaking Glass Pictures, The Fields explores the inner fears of a youngster named Steven (an untypical Joshua Ormond),sent to live with his grandparents in the Pennsylvania countryside after his parents’ marriage violently unravels.
Taking place in the early 70’s, Steven finds himself under the fearful worldwide sway of Charles Manson as that mad (would be) messiah’s trial becomes a daily media presence. This concern is amplified by his grandmother’s frequent, frantic warnings about avoiding the cornfields behind her home. Soon, he, rightfully, believes that something mysterious and dangerous is occurring around him.
Playing on how the wide open spaces and hollow sounds of rural communities can trouble the imagination, Mattera and Mazzoni work up to a slow boiling creepiness here. They couple this dread by presenting the theory that anything the least unordinary can seem dangerous to the unknowing. This is especially evident in a scene where Steven meets a distant relative’s friendly traveling companion, a boisterous African American man. Working quietly yet powerfully here, they allow patient, undemanding viewers to eventually find themselves as uneasy as young Steven.
There are some minor missteps. A sequence with a car careening through the fields in the film’s denouement and a quickly rushed conclusion mar the quiet reality established, but ultimately don’t do any tremendous internal celluloid damage.
More than anything, though, this film is an actor’s showcase with Cloris Leachman and Bev Appleton doing especially fine work as Steven’s grandparents. In particular, Leachman takes a role that could have been grossly over-the-top in lesser hands and makes an enjoyably living, breathing woman. Whether bickering with her husband, swearing with exasperated casualness or lovingly farting on her grandson at bedtime, Leachman is the heart and soul of the picture and worth the corn stained price of admission, alone.
I would, also, be remiss if I didn’t swoon a bit over tabloid staple (which I care nothing about) and Horror honey (which I do!), Tara Reid (Urban Legend, Vipers, Alone in the Dark) and her natural presence, here, as Steven’s mother. Her scene with Leachman is a winner and she has some tasty chemistry with co-producer Faust Checho, whom plays her hot headed (and just plain hot) husband, Barry. So, Reid Haters – back down or Big Gay Horror Fan may just break out in a rendition of “Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” Which I assure you – nobody, but nobody wants to hear!
And until next time – Sweet love and pink Grue – Big Gay Horror Fan!