Feature-length directorial debut of Hans Stjernswärd – who’s previous short movies are animated comedies, believe it or not – The Farm sets itself inside the long stream of films that take inspiration from (or plainly rip off) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The story is as simple as it should be in this sub-genre: a couple, Nora (Nora Yessayan) and Alec (Alec Gaylord), goes on a road trip and stop by an old, dirty hotel for the night, even though they’ve been warned not to stick around the area at a diner where they previously had lunch. Spending the night at the hotel, run by the most redneck person I’ve seen in a long time, wasn’t indeed a good idea, as Nora and Alec get kidnapped and wake up tied up in different cages. Their nightmare begins, as they’ve been brought to the titular farm: a place where people wearing animal masks (a la You’re Next) farm humans, treating men like pigs (literally) and women like milk cows (literally).
Now, I don’t usually read reviews before writing my own articles but this time I did, and a lot of people seem to be displeased with The Farm. In fact, this film avoids many of the aspects that characterise a TCSM’s rip-off. Probably for this specific reason – the fact that The Farm is in many ways different – I did really like the movie.
As a matter of fact, on paper I’m a big fan of movies that follow the formula established in 1974 by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but in actuality I only really like a bunch of them: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake from 2003, the French extreme horror Frontier(s) from 2007, the British Inbred (2011), and to a lesser extent Let Us Prey (2014) and The Loved Ones (2009).
I’m quite sure I will add The Farm to this list as soon as I gave it a second watch, since this film is filled with aspects to be appreciated (as long as you don’t expect a straight-up gore fest, I must reiterate).
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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For once, the main characters are really likeable. It certainly helps that Nora and Alec are playing themselves – since they’re together in real life, from what I could gather – therefore their chemistry feels realistic. Most of the dialogue seems improv, that’s how genuine the characters feel. Yet, other than one instance in which they don’t notice there’s blood on the matrasses of the hotel they’re staying, the two of them don’t make stupid decisions and are extremely relatable.
The technical aspects here are solid, with some very well-crafted shots and the use of fish-eye lenses during certain scenes shot from inside a cage, and definitely admirable for such a low-budget, genre flick.
Indeed, The Farm is not a gory movie – and, I must admit, I wish there were more guts and gore to be found – but it’s undoubtedly brutal and gruesome, with scenes involving new-borns and women that might make you feel squeamish. Also, the film doesn’t shy away from full-nudity and features villains (the farmers) who are relentless and nasty as they perform their daily tasks.
Obviously, The Farm has a strong subtext related to how we treat what will become our food, how animals are mistreated in farms and how desensitised we are towards their feelings. Basically, the movie switches around the food chain – hence the masks on the farmers’ face. In this sense, I can understand who criticises this picture calling it “a PETA commercial” but, even though I’m not vegetarian and I basically eat meat every other day, I do respect the filmmakers for giving a meaning to their project.
With all of that said, The Farm has a few issues that rely on its constant attempt at imitating movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: as I said before, sometimes we don’t get to see why certain characters end up in a specific situation. It seems like a few parts have been written on the script, but the director didn’t know how to show them on screen, therefore he shows only the consequences and not what led to them.
Also, the obvious escape attempt feels forced and out of place: it’s badly executed because you kind of know from the get-go how it’ll end; it doesn’t seem to have a sense of urgency either, as the farmers are always a step or two ahead of the main characters.
Yet, I wish we had spent more time in the titular farm. This film is 80 minutes long, credits included, and the first half hour is build-up, thus we don’t get enough time to be fully horrified by the way the facility works. Again, here some more scenes of violence and gore wouldn’t have caused harm.
As for the ending, which of course I won’t spoil, I feel like it will be either very impactful or extremely disappointing depending on how much you liked the movie up to that point.
I truly hope this little review will help you watch The Farm with the right mindset, not being tricked by a trailer that makes the movie look like a gore-fest. If you like what you read and my complaints seem irrelevant, then you should definitely give this film a chance.
The Farm 7/10