“From cradle to grave.”
Lionsgate is really starting to crank out some original horror films under the After Dark label, and if this is any indication of what’s in store for us down the road, I’m eager to see a few more of these titles hit the shelves. The films are direct-to-video low-budget films that have a more independent feel. While I wouldn’t call the film terribly original, it does offer a slightly fresh face on the haunted house theme. The movie carries a sub-theme of family secrets and histories. Talk about your skeletons in the closet.
After a miscarriage, Emily (Hailey) and Nate (Harold) decide to leave their stressful lives in the city and move into Nate’s ancestral home out in the country. The idea is to start over, but it doesn’t take Emily long to believe she has awakened something from the past. She begins to see and hear things. Her husband begins to act very differently. He was one a strict vegetarian, and now he’s shooting rabbits, skinning them by hand and eating them. It appears as if he is taking on the personality of a long-dead relative. Emily begins to see striking coincidences between their lives and the lives of the couple who lived in the house over a hundred years before. They were married on the same day, and Emily gets pregnant again on the same day as the woman did then. Her spooky feelings aren’t helped by the fact that they discover a skull under the house while repairing a broken drain. And now she might be next in line in a Weaver family tradition of evil.
The film reminds me a lot of The Messengers. That was another film where family members begin to take on the personalities of a house’s former troubled family. This one is certainly more subtle and psychological. The movie moves at a nice enough pace, but I didn’t like the idea of using chapter names for scenes. It’s a device used by other filmmakers, but it distracts me from the story. I don’t want to be constantly reminded that I’m watching a movie. It also intends to shape my expectations or interpretations of what the next few minutes of the movie is supposed to be. Director Adam Gierasch needs to have a little more faith in his audience. Trust that we can figure out “where” we are in the film without needing his guideposts to break up the momentum. This is only his third film, so maybe we can cut him a little slack here.
The performances are really important here. This isn’t a very crowded horror film, so we are completely focused on Nate’s changes and Emily’s terror. Fortunately, both Gale Harold and Leisha Hailey do pretty solid jobs on that front. Harold is good, but Hailey really carries the emotional weight of the film. If you buy into her terror, you’re hooked. If not, there aren’t enough truly scary moments to satisfy the average fan. These performances turn what might be a relatively mundane script into something worth checking out.
Fertile Ground is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The film is somewhat dark even when you would think it should be well-lit. It’s an artistic choice which likely works better on a movie screen. The DVD has a few compression issues that make this more problematic. The print is clean, and colors look natural when they’re not too dark.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is pretty much a front-loaded dialog affair. There are the requisite jump scenes that bring the audio presentation the occasional jump.
Just a Commentary.
Director Adam Gierasch also co-wrote the film with his wife Jace Anderson. It seems to be how they work as they collaborated this way on the Night Of The Demon remake and Autopsy. They seem to know how to create images that are “definitely what no pregnant woman wants to see”.