You may not have heard of a gentleman called Leigh Dovey. He is a UK horror fan who, like so many of us, was introduced to the genre via a steady diet of 1970s British terror yarns from Hammer, Tigon and Amicus. Dovey’s directorial debut, THE FALLOW FIELD (which he also wrote), is now available on DVD and despite the apparent lack of budget, is a hugely original and effective take on rural horror set in the English countryside.

The movie starts with our main protagonist, Matt Sadler (Steve Garry) recovering consciousness from an apparent blackout in a field in Surrey. The morning dew may have caused a chill in his bones, but it’s nothing compared to the icy reception he receives when he returns home to face his wife, Sandra (Anna Ruben). She is convinced he is having an affair and sick and tired of his increasingly regular disappearing acts has decided to call time on their farce of a marriage.

Matt attempts to protest his innocence for his latest hiatus from the married home not only to Sandra, but also to the local constabulary. Although he appears genuinely perplexed as to why he awoke dazed and confused in a strange field, it does little to help Inspector Connor (Angus Kennedy) when trying to sign off the ‘missing person’ case initiated by Mrs Sadler.

Matt’s predicament however is amplified by the fact that running alongside this episode, he is in indeed having a fling! His mistress Anne (Sarah Pemberton) is also seemingly bored of her lover’s elusiveness so duly decides to curtail their illicit rendezvous’.

Dumped twice in a week by two different women, Matt instinctively goes for a Sunday afternoon drive. Following the aroma of déjŕ vu, he leaves his vehicle and walks toward a small farm. It seems vaguely familiar, possibly similar to the remnants of a dream, but nevertheless, it’s with some trepidation he explores the seemingly new territory.

His discovery of the farmhouse is interrupted when the land owner, a burly farmer named Calham (Michael Dacre) challenges him. Being the serial liar he is, Matt concocts a story that his car has broken down and how he is merely looking for help. Although Calham’s offer to give him a lift after he has eaten is voiced, there is an air of menace in his words.

Matt is soon enticed into the farmhouse while Calham finishes his cooking endeavours and finds himself struggling for to make small talk and escape the intrusive glare and questions from the overpowering farmer. Children’s artwork adorns the kitchen – yet the farmer maintains he lives alone. The swelling ominous atmosphere suddenly explodes when Calham approaches Matt from behind before carving open his throat with an assured solitary slice. Logically, this is a fatal blackout that Matt should not recover from. Yet the very next scene shows Matt tied to a chair, with no evidence of a wound faced with the sinister farmer Calham all over again...

What I described above is around the first 20 minutes of THE FALLOW FIELD. What follows is a quite absorbing tale of the darkly supernatural. It is an inherently English tale whose apparent villain of the piece won’t be heard crying "get off my land..!" In fact the story revolves around quite the opposite…

The movie had many strengths starting with Matt’s character that, along with the foundations of the narrative, were quickly yet astutely assembled very early on. There was no need for a ‘mid film crisis point’ being used to crassly hook the viewer. By time the first truly uncanny twist occurs (Matt being graphically murdered but not dying) I was rapt by the picture and hungry for answers to the confusion. This bizarre premise was made all the more palatable by some subtle plausibility throughout. Matt’s lies to both his lovers implied when an absurd blackout episode did occur, the deceived ladies were understandably reluctant to worry too much about his whereabouts initially.

Be aware, a level of concentration is required to follow the gradual uncoiling bafflements but I felt my focus was richly rewarded throughout. That said, I also found myself effortlessly absorbed into the drama and this was largely due to Garry and Dacre’s engaging performances. Their presence on screen illuminated the picture and added an enthralling injection of class to proceedings. The movie had a deliberate pace, but never was it dreary.

Not exactly a gory picture, there was a couple of sharp insertions of violence which were brilliantly staged. Add to this some fiendish prosthetics when the grotesque results of Calham’s failed experiment, Henry, appears on screen TFF can easily be classed as a horror film rather than simply a dark thriller.

Although shot on a reasonably modest budget (some sources quote under Ł10k), I really would also like to mention Nick Kindon’s marvellous cinematography. From the very opening frames the 1.85:1 screen ratio captures the diverse greens and hanging morning mists of the lush Surrey landscape. This contrasted with luminous sun lit sequences and some excellent lighting in the dank close up scenes that suited the fantastical intensity of the production. It all added up to a gorgeous looking movie whose budgetary constraints were totally offset by its creative execution.

The quality of the DVD’s picture thankfully does Kindon’s visual exploits justice and the cinematic experience is topped off with some unnerving audio throughout. The virtual heartbeat of the farms power generator as it thudded away conveyed a genuine edge of isolation. Try getting your screams heard over that noisy chug!

The DVD contains a feature length commentary track by Dovey who is joined by producer Colin Arnold. Their discourse offers a wonderfully enthusiastic insight into the movies conception along with an earnest affection for the genre as a whole. It equates to a heart-warming, humorous and informative listen.

There is also a 20 minute Making of chapter which offers a few interview snippets from around the shoot.

TFF is an intelligently laid out and to a large extent hugely original movie that looks cinematic, has an authentic and unnerving soundtrack and has some quality acting in it. The disc as a whole is a great introduction to Leigh Dovey and his team’s potential which bodes very well for the future of British Horror. Bravo chaps…

Review by Marc Lissenburg

Released by Monster Pictures
Region 2 PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review