Follows three generations of a curse farming community that turn to human sacrifice to appease an evil that haunts the rain.Follows three generations of a curse farming community that turn to human sacrifice to appease an evil that haunts the rain.Follows three generations of a curse farming community that turn to human sacrifice to appease an evil that haunts the rain.
Inspired by Shirley Jackson's short story, "The Lottery", the film's story interweaves three narratives, each taking place in the aptly named town of Perseverance, each in a different time period – the 1880's, the 1950's, and the present day. The residents of Perseverance are oppressed with a curse. Each year they suffer an affliction to their bodies and a drought to their land, the only cure for which is to sacrifice three of their children.
Three things make this movie rock.
First, director Doug Schulze's visual flair, accomplished through a knack for unique and effective composition, creepy art direction, and occasionally gruesome special effects – both of the practical and CGI variety. Schulze displays an inventiveness here that belies a great effort not usually seen in films at this budget level; in all instances above he regularly puts original ideas on the screen. I found his concept for the physical affliction of the curse to be especially satisfying, especially in its final form on female lead Sasha Higgins, and in the grisly teeth-pulling scene (which I watched from between my fingers). Cinematographer Lon Stratton's dark, moody photography – utilizing both Super 35 and the then-new Red One 4K digital camera -- effectively augments the layered visuals.
Second, the cast. Icons David Carradine and Dee Wallace Stone deliver. Both have faces you could watch read a phone book, and Schulze uses their gravitas to anchor their segments. Richard Lynch, too, is a standout as a tortured father witnessing his daughter succumb to her initial affliction of the town's curse.
And third, the story. I went into "Dark Fields" with trepidation, knowing it was an anthology piece. Anthologies always leave me dissatisfied – I'm not a short film fan and they always feel like a string of shorts to me. But "Dark Fields" employs a unique structure, in which the three stories unfold simultaneously, climaxing in the resolution of the curse in the present day. They interwoven narratives build towards this common end, along the way each telling a unique story with a common theme. It gets a little confusing sometimes -- and it demands your attention -- but it works.
"Dark Fields" is low-budget indie horror, and like most entries in that populous sub-genre, the seams occasionally show. But the trade-off is its originality. Not Hollywood product, this. I'll call it a thinking person's horror film, in that it's not for the mentally lazy. There isn't a lot that's spelled out in simple terms, and little immediate satisfaction; things generally come to fruition at a deliberate pace. But you do get the feeling that you're in the hands of a storyteller who knows his craft and will deliver. Go into it knowing that and you'll be a (discriminating) fan.
- Mar 24, 2011