‘Hillbilly’ backwoods horror has been alive and kicking since before even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shocked audiences. Arguably, you could go back to the 1968 cult movie, Spider Baby, starring Lon Chaney Jr, for the first real backwoods horror movie. From Motel Hell to Wrong Turn, horror gives each new generation of fans its own version of cannibal hillbillies terrorizing big city folks. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And that seems to be the mantra The Farm – our latest backwoods horror movie – adopted
Los Angeles couple Alec and Nora get themselves lost on a cross-country drive. After a strange encounter with a small-town local, Alec insists they stop at a run-down bed and breakfast to rest for the night. But when they wake up the next morning, Alec and Nora find themselves separated and locked in tiny cages. And they’re not alone. Other travelers are caged up in rows inside a barn. Outside the barn, masked men and women work tireless processing meat. Unfortunately for Alec and Nora, they’re the meat.
The Farm Does Nothing Different With Its Premise
If the above premise is brief it’s because there isn’t much to say about The Farm. Despite some of the promotional material hinting at some dark humor or a satirical take on the premise, The Farm is content to recycle bits from better movies. All the standard subgenre tropes are here. Big-city couple takes a trip into the country. Check. Negative and/or creepy encounter with a local bumpkin. Check. Ignoring clear warning signs to stay away or leave. Check. Locals have a taste for human flesh. Double check. Even the increasingly tired trope of killers wearing animal masks is here.
… The Farm is a dull, straightforward take on the subgenre.
Nothing in The Farm stands out from any other rural horror movie. Director Hans Stjernsward makes no effort to play with the format or subvert expectations. Unlike Tobe Hooper’s classic, The Farm doesn’t really have anything to say about consumption or meat – there’s no subtext or commentary. Don’t even expect the self-aware, tongue-in-cheek humour from Motel Hell. Instead, The Farm is a dull, straightforward take on the subgenre.
Lazy Pacing and Infrequent Shocks Can’t Salvage Formulaic Horror
Given its unimaginative approach to its tired story, The Farm needed to deliver some scares and shocks to at least salvage itself. Other hillbilly horror movies, like The Hills Run Red, aren’t classics by any stretch of the imagination. But those movies were aware what audiences wanted and had some self-awareness of what kind of movie they were delivering. Comparatively, Stjersward films The Farm in a dreadfully serious manner. As a result, the movie is lazily paced with little to no suspense. While there’s some gruesome imagery, including an unnecessary scene with a newborn, it comes across as tasteless. The Farm’s violence would have felt sleazy, but perfectly at home in an exploitation flick.
The Farm Herds Unknown Actors Into Indistinguishable Characters
Don’t expect to watch The Farm and find any familiar faces. Not even genre character actors turn up. What The Farm does offer is a stable of unknown actors herded into underwritten characters. For instance, Alec and Nora are ‘bickering big city couple’. You don’t know anything else about them and, by the movie’s end, you won’t care. Aside from ‘The Farm’s’ main proprietor, no character has any sort of discernible trait or, well, character. If everyone in the movie had just worn an animal mask, it wouldn’t have made much difference. Before the movie was even over, I had to look up the names of the main characters.
The Farm a Derivative, Uninspired Horror Re-Tread
Whether The Farm is a bad movie – or just how bad it is – will depend on viewer expectations. On the one hand, The Farm is technically competent and has some of the requisite gore one might anticipate. If you don’t think this type of movie can’t get worse, try watching Cannibal Farm. Still that’s little excuse for what’s just another lazy re-tread of a horror concept that we’ve repeatedly. Ultimately, The Farm takes itself too seriously and, as a result, lacks any sense of fun to compensate for its lack of originality.