We’ve been here before: an attractive couple driving cross-country stops off at the wrong place and the horror ensues. It’s not a bad premise, it certainly has been effective for decades within the genre, but it serves only as a jumping-off point. It’s how the story progresses from there that matters in these kinds of movies.
In THE FARM, written and directed by Hans Stjernswärd, our protagonists Nora and Alec mistakenly follow the advice of a gas station clerk to stop at a friend’s cabins for an overnight rest. The pair are kidnapped and find themselves locked in dog cages on a farm where the humans are treated like livestock by a bunch of people wearing animal masks. Given the set-up one would expect this movie to be chocked full of gore, but it’s really not. I think the intent of the director was for the horror to come from the scenes where humans are confined and tortured the way animals are on slaughter farms. It is unsettling in places: women are inseminated so their milk can be collected after they give birth and there is a particularly disturbing scene where a baby is ripped away from its mother and slammed onto the floor. People’s heads get bashed in with hammers (but it’s really not graphic) and we find out their flesh is being harvested and served as food at weddings (the people on the farm apparently run a catering business).
It’s an interesting idea, but for me the execution was just all wrong. I wanted this to be more along the lines of MOTEL HELL or CANNIBAL CAMPOUT. Gross and fun. Look, I don’t mind a little social commentary mixed in with my art, but I felt like this movie wanted to preach, not to entertain. Was this flick sponsored by PETA or some vegan coallition? I get it: this is the animals turning the tables on humans, dishing out inhumane treatment in revenge and getting rich off selling their meat. We’re the real monsters. It’s not subtle at all. There is a part where a mentally-disturbed man on the farm kills one of the women hooked up to a milking machine and he starts screaming: “BAD HUMAN! IT’S YOUR OWN FAULT! YOU’RE ALL BAD!”
It sounds like it should be funny, but it’s not and that is a big part of the problem: this movie takes itself too seriously. There are a few moments that are intended to be humorous, but the jokes just come off as bad jokes in the middle of a rather somber movie. With these kind of movies, it’s never a bad thing to go over the top with the humor and the gore, but this one doesn’t. At the end, two naked girls are laid out on platters, roasted like pigs, complete with apples in their mouths, as the masked killers gather around the table in a surreal scene that I think is supposed to mock DaVinci’s painting of The Last Supper. If it was meant to be funny, it was a misfire because this is not a funny movie. If it was meant to be bizarre, it really wasn’t either because the movie didn’t push itself far enough in that direction. It was simply odd.
For a movie about cannibalism, there isn’t much to churn the viewer’s stomach and there’s little of the frenetic crazy energy that makes people squirm and wince during a flick like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which this film definitely takes its cue from. Chainsaw had virtually no gore, but what made that movie a success was the mounting tension and the implication of horrific violence, not to mention the downright craziness of Leatherface’s family. THE FARM lacks that.
The acting, though, is really good; everyone seems a little off-kilter which helps establish an eerie mood during the beginning of the film. I did have an issue with the main characters Nora and Alec, however: they really needed to make the most of the time spent focusing on this couple. If we’re going to have twenty minutes of screen time with these people, you have to make the audience like them or at least learn something about them, which I didn’t. As a viewer, I was not really invested in them. They’re used a set-up and the rest of the movie really isn’t about them, anyway. It’s more about the farm itself, which is another problem: the farm isn’t a scary place even with all the masked weirdos milling around. It’s not a dilapidated collection of buildings, it looks like a thriving farm, a very well maintained successful enterprise, at least from the outside. It’s not an environment that one would expect in this type of movie and it doesn’t lend itself well to creating an atmosphere of horror.
The cinematography and sound were very well done, as were the effects. I think they had a bigger budget than most indie horror crews, and they put it to good use. The animal masks creeped me out, but only at first. When everyone is wearing one, it kind of waters down the effect. Overall, the movie looks and sounds good; it has that desaturated look of old 70s horror flicks, though I wish they shot it on 16mm film instead of digital to add some grit and grain.
This is not a bad movie, despite all my nitpicking. I just wanted so much more out of it. It has a brooding overall tone that would be better suited for a haunted house story; I was hoping for psychotic crazy vibes and balls-out blood and guts.
I give the movie a 4.1/10. I still urge everyone to give it a watch, let me know what you think.
THE FARM is available for download/streaming from YouTube, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play Movies & TV.