The Fallow Field is the debut directorial indie feature from Leigh Dovey. The film begins by telling the tale of amnesiac Matt (Steve Garry), who wakes up in the middle of nowhere. When he finds his way back home it appears that he’s been missing for a week. But it’s not the first time this has happened to him. So far, so simple (and formulaic).
The first twenty minutes of the film sets itself up as being a straightforward mystery. However, shortly after frightening farmer Calham (Michael Dacre) is introduced, the film suddenly takes an unexpected, jarring left turn and becomes something other than the run-of-the-mill psychological horror thriller it had previously set itself up to be. Instead it becomes a dark, supernatural horror. In addition, whilst it heads into this new direction, it still keeps intact the same tense atmosphere established at the beginning and does not change gears or morph into anything over-the-top, pretentious or exaggerated. Dovey chooses to hone in on the horrific situation that the character has found himself in, and it soon becomes clear that this is a ‘realistic’ type of horror film. At times, it makes us question what we ourselves would do and how we would cope if we found ourselves in Matt’s situation.
Dovey explains that the film originally began as a very different story concerning an ‘estranged son returning home to see his dying father at a remote farm, and then coming under siege by the locals who were pagan druids’. Although this changes during the writing process, he still develops the themes of ‘cyclical nature, worshipping the earth, rural isolation and madness’.
It is not only the unique turn of narrative events that earns the film a lot of merit, but it has several other strings to its bow. Dacre’s performance as Calham is incredibly unnerving. I, similar to Dovey, tend to perceive the bad guy as being the most intriguing character. What makes Calham interesting is that he kind of looks like the typical farmer you’d see on a daily basis (especially if you live in Wales like I do), yet he certainly doesn’t act like one. Dovey explains that whilst creating this character, he began by writing him as ‘a simple, basic yet cunning man who looks at everything in terms of agricultural worth’, and then faults him with ‘terrible monstrous desires and impulses’. Interestingly, the film’s mise-en-scene doesn’t resemble a ‘typical’ type of horror film.
Although it’s creepy, it looks gorgeous and contains a lot of lush, dreamy shots of Shere, Surrey (by director of photography Nick Kindon). This is not something you’d find in a dull, Michael Bay-Platinum Dunes-produced type of horror film and is therefore, very refreshing. These kinds of shots make the film look as if it was made for a lot more money than it was.
You need to be patient with this film, but it’s worth your time. I have a feeling that it might not appeal to fidgety 15 year olds or anyone who has a short attention span. I’d argue that this film is for the more nature, adult horror audience; those whose minds like to be cognitively challenged and stretched. The pace and texture of it reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s delicate Insomnia(2002).