Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

The Legend of Lucy Keyes | Dark Fields

By Steve Anderson
November 1st, 2005

The Legend of Lucy KeyesThe Legend of Lucy Keyes
****
DVD
Directed by John Stimpson
Written by John Stimpson
Starring Julie Delpy, Justin Theroux, Brooke Adams, Mark Boone Junior
Produced by Mark Donadio, J. Todd Harris, Miriam Marcus
96 mins
NR
2006

Okay, folks--it's October. This is prime time for horror flicks. Thus, what I'm gonna do for you is a godsend and a blessing--I'm gonna give you the line on one of the downright creepiest movies I've seen lately-- "The Legend of Lucy Keyes".

So what we have here plotwise is a couple moving to the country to get a fresh start. Few better places for a fresh start than the country. Except in this case, our young couple and their two young daughters are going to run afoul of a two hundred and fifty year old legend. The section of the country they've settled in has a long, storied...and dark...history. The family will therefore have to get to the bottom of the history involving the town and the land and discovering the horrific secret the town is holding.

And frankly, they really crank it up. From even the first minute, they'll bring out solid ghost effects, even better backup effects, and great background music that will really have you immersed in the plot. In fact, the opening minute sequence is so good, you'll actually see it again later on in the movie. And not in a flashback. Dying for me to explain? Oh no.you'll have to see for yourself.

In other words, this is creepy and I'm just watching it from behind a television. This is perhaps the truest hallmark of successful horror. Can we, the audience, be scared just watching it? Without even having to consider how we'd feel in just such a situation? When you reach that point, you know you're in for a truly scary time, and "The Legend of Lucy Keyes" manages to do just that.

More interestingly, a small line of text within the first three minutes reveals that this is, in fact, based on a true story. And that's all the more unsettling. It was creepy enough just watching it--knowing that even a fraction of this may in fact be true is knowledge that doesn't sit well.

Even when they're just building atmosphere and plot exposition--like they will through much of the first half-hour--they'll do a good job of it. Because they'll also intersperse a healthy body of shock value through the narrative, as you'll see at more than a few locations throughout.

And, the plot will become significantly more complex than anyone saw coming. They'll be tacking on political intrigue (okay, small-town political intrigue, but still!) and some very shady business arrangements, which ramps this up past the realm of mere ghost story. Which isn't to say that "The Legend of Lucy Keyes" doesn't work as a ghost story-anything but! But what it does do is work as a ghost story, as a political thriller, as a corporate thriller (shades of "Boiler Room", anyone?), and as any combination of the above. This adds a note of quality that most movies struggle and ultimately fail to achieve.

The ending is an explosive intermingling of death and shocks, leading up to an incredible close. It's a spectacularly well-crafted ending to a spectacularly well-crafted film.

The special features include Spanish subtitles, audio options, commentary, a behind the scenes featurette, deleted scenes, filmographies, and a trailer for "The Legend of Lucy Keyes".

All in all, I'm seriously impressed with "The Legend of Lucy Keyes". One part ghost story, one part political thriller, and every part fantastic plotline, this is a legend that needs to be told.

Dark Fields
*
DVD
Directed by Mark McNabb, Allan Randall
Written by Allan Randall
Starring Jenna Scott, Lindsay Dell, Brian Austin Jr., Eric Phillion
Produced by Mark McNabb, Allan Randall
80 mins
NR
2006

I don't believe I ever want to see the barrel that Lions Gate had to scrape the bottom of to dredge up this roaring suckfest.

So what we have here plotwise is now what you'd call much of a plot at all: a bunch of idiot kids with the collective intelligence of a jar of mayonnaise--an empty jar at that--can't seem to manage to get to a mindless rock concert, so they wind up getting attacked by a raging hillbilly instead. Texas Chainsaw Knockoff, aisle two!

First, "Dark Fields" has a positively screwed up opening sequence, where we waver between a hot chick jogging and getting changed and some kind of farmyard scene going on. What exactly we're going for at this point as a farmer kills a rooster and a hot chick makes herself a belly shirt is totally, unequivocally, beyond me.

I swear, this chick is there for like one class. Seriously--eight minutes in and she's already off to the concert--one whole class. I think the kids in "Beverly Hills 90210" had a more demanding curriculum than "Dark Fields" can muster. Maybe if they actually got her a couple classes she might've had brains in her head sufficient to beating back an axe-toting crazed farmer.

And can we have the "I've got to piss!" argument a few more times in the first fifteen minutes? Back and forth for like five minutes is some variant on "I've got to piss!" and "No! Not until we get to the gas station!" for five solid minutes. Considering this thing is only eighty minutes long to begin with, it's not like they've got a whole lot of time to waste, and they're certainly not taking advantage of what time they actually have available.

Amateurish in the extreme, with godawful effects, plot holes of depth measurable in hectares, lousy dialogue (I actually heard the phrase "cheese 'n' rice" at one point--you can also have a lively drinking game around how many times you hear the phrase "ass-clown"!), a plot so cookie cutter that it could describe any of a hundred movies released in the last twenty years, and with acting so unnaturally awkward and stilted that it's the cinematic equivalent of Baron Samedi in a foot race, "Dark Fields" isn't the kind of movie I'd want to run into in a dark alley. Or in a well-lit video store, for that matter.

And then, for some reason, at the twenty five minute twenty one second mark, a car horn honks. No one seems to notice or care that they're out in the middle of nowhere with a car horn honking, so I'm gonna go out on a limb and say:

What the hell kind of fucked-up post-production did you people do that you couldn't edit out a fucking car horn in the middle of dialogue?

The twenty nine minute forty nine second mark shows the true nature of this parade of godawful beautifully. Watch as Zach, one of our main characters, can't manage to finish his own joke because he's--laughing? I guess it's laughing; it really sounds more like he's sputtering or trying to play some kind of imaginary brass instrument.

And then, pegging Zach as a lead pipe cinch candidate to take home a Darwin Award, he sticks his hand into some unidentifiable bit of farm machinery and dares anyone, especially the missing member of the group he's looking for, to turn on the device. And of course, the device engages, taking his hand and ostensibly killing him via the simple expedient of massive blood loss.

Taunting anything in a horror movie--dumber than the rocket-fuel-powered car.

The ending features the new gold standard for idiocy in film as the killer farmer decides he's going to hide in a meat freezer that can be locked from the outside. Yet despite this baffling show of insanity, neither of our surviving characters seem willing or able to capitalize on this.

The special features include Spanish subtitles, English closed captions, and trailers for "Hard Candy", "See No Evil", "An American Haunting", "Stephen King's Desperation", "Are You Scared?" and "The Feeding".

All in all, how this movie got picked up for distribution is totally beyond me. An amateur wonder that reminds me of a bunch of kids playing with a camcorder down on the farm, "Dark Fields" is the runt of the litter.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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