Monday, June 6, 2011

Fertile Ground (2010)

Great For Planting, Okay For Viewing

A happily married couple move from the city to the desolate country in order to escape from bad memories. After settling in their new home, happy as can be, things start to get spooky as the house reveals dark secrets of its past, putting our protagonists in grave danger. Sound familiar? Most likely, because this is the basis for numerous supernatural horror films. After Dark's Fertile Ground is the latest candidate in this series of new-house-becomes-nightmare flicks. Drawing inspiration from The Amityville Horror, The Shining, and well...everything else remotely close, Fertile Ground does little to break new ground (see what I did there?), but still manages to provide a mildly entertaining haunted house feature.

Married couple Emily and Nate Weaver (Leisha Hailey, The L Word and Gale Harold, Queer as Folk, respectfully and coincidentally) couldn't be happier. Nate is an up-and-coming painter and Emily is clothing designer, pregnant with their first child. During a dinner party, Emily suffers a miscarriage, leaving the couple devastated, especially when she's told she'll never be able to have children again. Like all spouses do in the movies, they trade their chic, big city apartment for a house in the country that has been in Nate's family for generations, in order to leave their bad memories behind and start anew. At first everything seems perfect, until a couple of plumbers running a camera through the piping system underground discover the skull of a small child (see: poster). Soon, Emily is seeing the ghostly apparition of an old woman and Nate is growing distant and cruel. In an effort to learn about what's happening, Emily digs up the history of their home, discovering that a series of brutal murders occurred in every instance that the house was occupied by Nate's relatives. Then, when Emily discovers that she's somehow become pregnant again, she finds herself struggling with her sanity and a house that wants her (and her baby) as victims to its continuing legacy of carnage.

As previously mentioned, there really isn't anything new introduced in the story of Fertile Ground. All of the classic plot elements of the haunted house are there: possession, visions, questions of sanity, a husband who grows distant and cold, and a few obligatory deaths. The reason that the film almost works is because of the two leads, who each give a great and believable performance. Secondly, the country setting is ridiculously gorgeous and had me longing to live on their property, dead baby skulls or not.

While the violence and kills are scarce, there is still a surprising amount of the red stuff in this film. There's some work with an axe, a knife, a deadly fall through a window, and a few more surprises to keep the gore hounds sated. Also, Leisha Hailey isn't embarrassed to show of her giant knockers throughout the film, so fans of hers (or just knockers in general) will appreciate the skin scenes as well.

Like most films made by After Dark, Fertile Ground is hit-or-miss. Longtime genre fans will most likely find themselves bored by the recycled plot elements while the casual horror viewer may find themselves surprised and a bit spooked. Either way, just don't expect anything aside from standard horror fare with a predictable twist and a bit of gore. While its acting, downer ending, and gracious ta-ta shots are appreciated, Fertile Ground, like its title, would be better if it just weren't so damn soft and lacking in creative roots.

2/5 Stars

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