Sunday, 27 April 2014

Fertile Ground (2011) Adam Gierasch

Fertile Ground is one of those slightly irritating films that makes me feel like a sucker. For a fairish stretch, the opening third coming up on the first half or so, this is pretty much the best work from steadily unsteady genre writing/directing couple Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson yet, with characters and plotting that aren't contrivedly quirky or chaotic, and even a core of legitimate emotionally hefty potential. Opening on a dinner party, main characters Nate and Emily are established swiftly, attractive young couple moving up in the world and facing challenges with smarts and good humour. Their bright and easy chemistry is straight away compelling and generally well handled, the editing of another early scene of moving into a new house has them working in time though separate, just the sort of unspoken but close union to make spooky events all the more affecting. It's handy because this is as predictable as they come even before the first hint of anything supernatural. I mean, has any couple ever moved into an ancestral country house to regroup following a tragedy and not encountered a frying pan/fire situation? Basically you've seen this a million times before even if you haven't, but somehow it works okay for a while. The performances are able, the location is pleasing and the scare tactics get a few hits. Though erring on the jumpy side of things I was "got" a couple of times and there's a certain atmosphere to the spectres, an old, grave worn malignant misery that makes a nice change from outright aggression or manipulation. 

Unfortunately things are spread too thinly, with a very much unnecessary 90 minute plus run time. There are only so many predictable spooks, plot beats, questions of paranoia or genuine evil that one can take, in something like this measured escalation just doesn't work because the viewer can already guess beyond intrigue what things are escalating to. By the final block doldrums set in sufficiently that the plot illogicalities become impossible to ignore (you're not isolated so why act as though you are!) and are not charming but annoying, while the potentially interesting aspects of the story are left undeveloped. There is at least a notable climax but this too is fudged, the kind of adolescent grasp at edgy cynicism that just comes across tired and mean and leaves a bad taste but not in a good way. So this is ultimately pretty hard to recommend. My interest in following Gierasch/Anderson and their work remains, seemingly nice people with some talent and legit genre enthusiasm, but I think by and large their best work was the screenplay for Crocodile 2: Death Roll and their progress through working with classic directors and then getting their own gigs has overwhelmed them. So I guess I'll stay a sucker for a while. Meh...

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