More than forty years after the events of the Manson Family murders we have "The Fields," a very unique and brooding film from directors Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni. A combination of "Zodiac," "The Strangers," and steeped in America's shock and mourning over the Sharon Tate murders, "The Fields" is very much a different beast from your usual serial killer movie fare. Because this is not a serial killer movie. Yes, Charles Manson and his family play a large part in the events of this film, but this isn't a blood-and-guts affair. It's very much an examination of small-town life in 1973, and the effect that news of Manson's possibly imminent parole has on its citizens.
Steven, a young, curly-haired kid, is shipped off to the isolated farm owned by his grandparents (Tom McCarthy and Cloris Leachman) after a very ugly domestic dispute goes down between his parents (Faust Checho and Tara Reid). The parents need to sort out their issues, and both agree Steven should not be around to witness it. "The Fields" is told through his eyes, and his fear of Charles Manson being released from prison begins to take hold of him. Very strange and suspicious characters are scattered throughout the film, including Eugene, a farm hand with not too much going on upstairs. His first appearance is very unsettling, and with Manson-like floating arms and lilting voice, your immediate first thought is that young Steven's fears have come true - that Manson has been paroled after all, and has come for him.
But this isn't that kind of movie. It's much smarter than that. It's very much about the duplication of evil in our world. It suggests that evil is cyclical, and that it's born at home, in basements right beneath our feet. It is Steven's fear of Charles Manson that drives the film, and because he is your narrator, you immediately question the things he is seeing - like the demented carnival he discovers after crossing through his grandparents' cornfield, or the body of the young girl in this same field so very close to their front door...
As for the events of the film experienced through Steven's eyes, you might find yourself asking: What's real? What's not? Unlike other films of its ilk, "The Fields" does answer those questions. It's certainly not for everyone; it has an established pace and it takes its time telling you just enough to wonder what the hell you're being told in the first place. Despite this, it's never a frustrating view, and for me was a pleasant surprise.
Fans looking for something grislier should look elsewhere, but those looking for a meditative slow burn should seriously consider a trip to "The Fields."
Read a more comprehensive and uncensored review at The End of Summer by clicking my username.