JULY 24, 2010
When the star of the film's name is spelled wrong on the DVD cover, it sets the bar pretty low for the type of movie you're going to get. But Farmhouse, starring Steven Weber (not Webber, DVD design people) is actually pretty decent, with a unique (if not entirely successful) spin on the standard "Couple's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and they take refuge with people who eventually try to kill them" scenario, leading to a truly horrifying final scene that explains why the events of the film have happened to these people.
Unfortunately, this plotline is also what hurts the movie. Instead of it being just a matter of "wrong place, wrong time", we eventually discover that Weber and wife Kelly Hu are intentionally after our protagonists. The final twist makes this easier to swallow, but for the entire time in between those two revelations (a good half hour), I was distracted by how idiotic a plot point it was. If the car had broken down due to something being put in the road or whatever, that would be one thing. But the accident is caused by our "hero" falling asleep at the wheel - there is no way that Weber and Hu could have been counting on their accident.
Of course, the big reveal of Weber/Hu's true nature makes this far less of a coincidental occurrence, but that idea is also hinted at far too early into the film, so I was already sort of suspecting it anyway. It's like the movie has all of the right beats, and presents the twists in a way that never feels like cheating, but they're not spread out at the correct rate for me to get truly engrossed in the story - I was constantly picking apart foreshadowing and growing increasingly annoyed by the film's puzzling moments, such as when our heroes don't even contest that it's "too late" for Weber to drive them over to a garage, as it seems to be about 3 in the afternoon at the latest.
Equally annoying is the performance by William Lee Scott, who once again makes his whiny "Guy doing a bad Robert Deniro impression" face whenever he is required to deliver any lines, same as he did in the equally "OK but flawed" Nine Dead. And I liked the guy in Pearl Harbor, so I know he is capable of, you know, not doing that. The other actors are quite good (Weber seems to be having a ball), but Scott's performance was a constant distraction.
It doesn't help that they never give you any reason to really like the guy. Sure, he's not torturing folks like Weber, but he's a complete and total dick. It's his fault they are more or less on the run (we learn he has some serious gambling debt) and then it's his fault that they crash. So that, plus Scott's incessantly constipated appearance, made him the least sympathetic hero I can recall. The wife (Jamie Anne Allman) fares a bit better, though she's sort of annoying as well, sitting there doing nothing in several situations that she is free to help.
The movie has a number of surprisingly harsh gore gags, though I never felt that they really belonged in this particular film. Even before the final reveal renders them wholly pointless (without spoiling much, there's no reason for Weber to do the things he does without the film), they just seemed like they were imported from a different movie, one where it would make some sort of sense for Kelly Hu to tie Allman up to a chair and take a cheese grater to her knees. For example.
Also, every single person who gave approval to the costumes, makeup, and every other facet of its execution, for the final scene, should be fined or forced to trade their next good job for a 25th round draft choice one. Because there's this horrifying, ballsy reveal in the very final scene, but a lot of its power is lost due to the fact that it comes right after we've seen our villains standing around in goofy vampire-esque high collared capes, with red eyes and truly cheesy "otherworld" backgrounds. Again, the ideas are fine - its the execution that needed some reconsideration.
Ultimately, it's certainly one of the more unique takes on this overcrowded genre, and had I not seen at least 39 other films that started out more or less the same way, I probably wouldn't have been so keyed into things that the filmmakers probably thought were cleverly hidden from the audience. And it's a major improvement for the filmmaking team of writer Daniel P. Coughlin and director George Bessudo, who were responsible for the abysmal Lake Dead. Hopefully they can continue to grow, and maybe explore something that doesn't involve folks being tortured on their next film.
What say you?