Rural USA: A Death Trap

Nora (Nora Yessayan) and Alec (Alec Gaylord) are driving through the rural southern United States. As every horror movie ever has established, this is something you should never do under any circumstances, ever. Seriously, get a plane, or a helicopter, or hitch a ride on Amazon’s version of Fallout 4’s Prydwen. Just don’t drive through rural USA. Don’t do it.

But they did. First, the couple makes the mistake of trying to help some old lady who has broken down. She proceeds to start asking prying questions about Nora’s lack of a wedding ring, gives Alec some lip about not being able to fix her car, and then unceremoniously tells the pair to fuck off, in a manner of speaking.

The couple’s second mistake (or third, since they’re driving through the rural US), is to stop at a diner and on the suggestion of the waitress, order burgers which apparently seals their fate because meat is murder and meat-eaters deserve to be murdered. At least, that’s the gist I get from what follows.

Hapless Nora and Alec stop at a motel of sorts. Nora is rude to the owner, and they both end up kidnapped by the guy under their bed. Nora awakes in a wire cage in the eponymous farm and quickly discovers that this is a farm for humans, staffed by people in animal masks. Women are forcibly impregnated and milked. Men are cut up and distributed for meals. Delightful. It’s like Motel Hell, but without any of the humour, or charm, or any genuinely redeeming qualities.

Spoiler Alert: This Movie is Garbage-Scented Excrement

See, The Farm is shite. Not only is it propaganda with all the subtlety of a donkey punch, but it’s also tedious propaganda at that. What happened to the days of Reefer Madness, eh? Writer and director, Hans Stjernswärd, clearly aspires to produce something approaching high art but fails almost entirely. Consider, for example, the use of a 2:76.1 aspect ratio—a stylistic choice rarely used (Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is probably the most notable example). What does Hans do with this? He laces the film with a bunch of self-indulgent panoramas that add nothing to the movie except bump up the runtime.

Because clearly an ultra-panoramic aspect ratio is necessary to properly convey the artistic merit of scenes like this!

What’s worse is that this movie has some of the worst sound-editing that I have ever encountered. There are times when it is clear that the boom mic operator hasn’t a clue what they’re fucking doing. One actor can speak and be heard clearly, and the actress right next to him is so faint that you’ll be reaching for the volume control. Entry-level stuff here, Hans. Tell your crew to get their shit together.

‘Shit, I Forgot to Write a Plot!’ – Hans Stjernswärd

Of course, in film, nothing is more entry-level than the plot, right? You can’t have a movie without a story, although some people have certainly tried. Hans appears to be one of these people. So wedded to his anti-meat industry ideology that the movie espouses with every fibre of its malnourished being, it seems he forgot the whole story thing and threw Alec and Nora in as an afterthought. Seriously, he couldn’t even be arsed to give their characters names and instead, they’re just named after the actors. I’d love to see the screenplay for this movie because I imagine there are multiple pages with nothing but ‘TBD’ written on them.

I’m not sure whether Hans despises genre conventions about spending time with protagonists to sway audiences to support their survival, or whether he just hates women. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t pay much heed to potential misogyny in horror or cult movies given how many women-in-prison and skin-flicks-masquerading-as-horror-movies I’ve watched. On this occasion, however, given that the writer/director clearly wants to take the moral high-ground, he’s inviting questions about his own moral character. When we see that cruelty to women gains far more attention than men in this picture, it’s not unreasonable to take a critical view of the reason why.

I know I’m going on a bit about this aspect ratio stuff – but seriously, what the fuck does this accomplish?

Additionally, while our male protagonist is, at least, somewhat likeable, our female one is not. From the off, Nora is presented as argumentative, brusque and impossible to sympathise with. Sure, she doesn’t deserve to be locked in a cage, have spunk syringed into her, and then thrown in a barn but even most sadists would draw a fucking line there.

No Meat on These Bones

Even if this is all just a co-inky-dink, Nora is the personification of this film’s central issue—it was only ever intended to be a $25m snipe at the meat industry and meat consumers. Nora is a one-dimensional character because this is a one-dimensional movie. She exists in the same stasis that the film gets stuck in for much of its second act and consequently cannot grow or develop. Shortly after our protagonists are kidnapped, the movie opts to ignore their very existence to take a bizarre, meandering wander through life on a farm. We follow our mostly silent, animal-mask-wearing antagonists as they go about their day moving bodies around, killing babies and attending to the women hooked up to milking machines.

Surprisingly, The Farm isn’t all that grizzly. For all the detached limbs, tortured women and aforementioned baby-slaying, there is only one standout scene of gore in which a woman who is no longer able to produce offspring or milk has her throat slit like a cow before being disembowelled. Once again, of course, it’s a woman who suffers the most brutal demise.

“Bad meat-eating women must suffer!” – Hans Stjernswärd, Every Day of His Life, Presumably

Of the two antagonists who do speak, one is our motel owner (who unsurprisingly runs the farm) dealing with some complaints about a tooth in the catering while another is a mentally ill man who kills one of the women for being a ‘bad human’. Unhappy about killing some of the livestock, our angry farm/motel owner orders mentally ill man to be watched all day (yeah, they probably have names but I didn’t care to remember them). He escapes. A chase ensues, that drags on, and I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to care or not? Either way, he eventually returns with some oregano, and all is forgiven. There is no fucking point to any of this. It’s just some more self-indulgent shit added to an 80-minute propaganda flick with ten minutes of usable material.

Out-Of-Breath Plodding to an Obvious End

When the movie almost grudgingly transitions into Act 3, it does so with an almost resigned ‘if I must’ attitude. Alec, who was last seen getting smashed on the head with a mallet is inexplicably part of the story again solely to set up the by-the-numbers final chase as the movie jogs like an overweight chain-smoker to its predictable conclusion. I wouldn’t even be as critical of the propaganda elements in this movie if it at least had entertainment value. Plenty of enjoyable movies take moral positions I disagree with, and I don’t even necessarily disagree with the position of this one. Farms are brutal places. But if you’re going to base your entire movie on a specific moral premise, then you do yourself no favours by making it as tedious as this. As it is, without a real story, likeable characters, or even much dialogue, the only thing to judge The Farm on is its moral stance and as such, it’s as subtle as syphilis, badly defined and terribly executed.

You just know he spaffed a puddle when he came up with this shot.

Even at the very end, Hans can’t let the opportunity slip to throw in some more half-baked, pseudo-artistic self-indulgent bollocks by lingering on a macabre re-enactment of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. You can almost hear him fapping himself senseless at his genius, while his audience collectively yawns and mumbles ‘Thank fuck that’s over.’