You may have a tough time tracking down all eight of this year's "After Dark Originals" titles, as they've been sprinkled all across the media landscape: a few debuted on the SyFy Channel, some had cursory theatrical releases, a handful landed directly on DVD -- and it's all a little bit frustrating for a guy like me: a horror freak who writes for FEARnet and tries to see the newest horror flicks as early as possible. But I track 'em all down eventually, and the two most recent arrivals on the DVD shelves are the surprisingly strong Seconds Apart and the unsurprisingly rote, dull, and generic Fertile Ground, which is the one we're here to discuss today.
I'll keep it short.
The writer/director team of Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch has been churning out the genre stuff for over a decade now, and the astute horror fans will recognize their names from efforts as disparate as Spiders, Crocodile, Toolbox Murders, Mortuary, Mother of Tears, Autopsy, and Night of the Demons. Clearly these guys love the horror stuff, and their output has ranged from "meh, forgettable" to "low-budget fun." I'm sorry to opine that their latest, Fertile Ground, is not only "meh, forgettable," but it's also a tiresome thriller that will evaporate from your short-term memory in less time than in takes to watch. Aside from a few fine acting performances, and Gierasch's greatly improved skill at setting a creepy stage, there's virtually nothing here that's new, noteworthy, or indicative of a duo that's already made about a dozen films.
Here's the gist: a pregnant woman suffers a tragic miscarriage so she grabs her husband and (all together now) moves into an isolated old family home that's really not very welcoming at all. Raise your hand if you'd be shocked to learn that the house has a terrifying past full of missing persons, brutal accidents, and plain old murder. Keep your hand up if you'd be surprised to learn that our protagonist's sweetheart of a husband starts turning into a bitter, paranoid jerk who says really mean things. And there are also numerous visions, jump scares, and redundant dream sequences to cap all the tedium off with a nice dash of boredom.
As the emotionally beleaguered Emily Weaver, Leisha Hailey works a whole lot harder than her screenwriters did, and it's only through her sympathetic performance that the film comes to life at all. Joseph Conlan's old-school score offers more personality than the haunted house itself, the third-act revelations are as perfunctory as possible, and the whole of Fertile Ground feels like it was banged together from a sketchy old screenplay that Anderson and Gierasch had buried on a back shelf somewhere. If After Dark wants to tackle the disturbing issues (like miscarriage) and do so in a quiet, sedate format, I'm all for it. But the next effort has to feel a whole lot more sentient than Fertile Ground; despite a few good touches on the visual and auditory sides of the equation, the thing is a big, gaping yawn of a haunted house flick.