Lionsgate // 2011 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // June 17th, 2011
From cradle to grave.
After a devastating miscarriage, Emily Weaver (Leisha Hailey, The L Word) goes with her husband Nate (Gale Harold, Falling for Grace) to his family's country home to try and start a new life. Emily loves it at first, but soon strange things start to happen. First, it's mysterious hand prints and odd noises, but it quickly becomes a husband acting unusually cruel and a body that shows an unlikely pregnancy. After some research, she sees that this house has an extremely dark past and she worries that she will suffer the same fate that so many wives in this house have suffered.
I'm completely on board with the After Dark Original film series. They aren't reinventing the genre or anything crazy, but their dedication in bringing quality independent horror to fans is impressive. As the case with most of their productions that I've seen, Fertile Ground is a solid film that breaks no new ground, but is a solid product.
I like the pregnancy angle that Fertile Ground takes to deliver a straightforward ghost house movie. It's not a very common theme in horror, but it's a natural. Something is growing inside the person, the body changes, hormones go crazy, not to mention postpartum depression, there are all sorts of places you can go with it. The husband and wife team of director Adam Gierasch and writer Jace Anderson (Night of the Demons) uses it for a quick shock at the start, then makes it part of the overall somber tone of the film without making it a huge part of the horror.
Ultimately, though, Fertile Ground is a very standard story that asks whether ghosts haunt Emily, or if she's really just insane. If you've seen a haunted house movie before, you won't see anything surprising. Some jump scares, a creepy kid, and ghostly hand prints are all there in spades and none of it works very well, but it's a moody film with some very good performances, especially for a film of this level. Leisha Hailey delivers an emotional lead performance that is simply excellent. She is in every scene in the film, carries the whole thing, and is up to the task in every way. Gale Harold is not quite as believable as her doubting (and possibly evil) husband. He has to go back and forth between being caring and being a total jerk, but there's so much similarity between the two personalities that neither side really distinguishes itself. Look out for Chelsie Ross (Hoosiers) in a tiny but hilarious role, as well. He's great in every film he appears in; his natural charm and hilarious line readings made me want to see a lot more from this character.
From Lionsgate, the DVD for Fertile Ground performs as well as the rest of the After Dark Original series, which makes it an average disc and little more. The image transfer is perfectly fine for a new film, with no transfer errors and a good clear picture. The surround and stereo mixes are nearly the same, though there is an extra punch in the rear channels in the creepier scenes. It doesn't add a lot, but it's there. For extras, the storyboard gallery is pretty worthless, but it does feature a good commentary track. Director Giersach, writer Anderson, and star Leisha Hailey join us for a surprisingly frank discussion of the film. Thankfully, none of the gladhanding so common in independent film commentaries exists here; instead, it's an honest self-criticism of a film and a welcome respite from the usual self-serving talk I normally hear.
Fertile Ground is a solid ghost story. It's a little slow, but the performances are good, there's a bit of blood, and I enjoyed the plot. It's not the best film in the After Dark Originals series, but it works well enough.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R