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July 2011

Fertile Ground

cast: Leisha Hailey, Gale Harold, Chelcie Ross, and Jami Bassman

director: Adam Gierasch

91 minutes (18) 2010
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
G2 DVD Region 0

RATING: 4/10
review by Gary Couzens

Fertile Ground

In the opening sequence of Fertile Ground we see Emily Weaver (Leisha Hailey), wearing only a pair of knickers, beaming with happiness as she caresses her own pregnancy bump. Thus the film sets out its stall: aiming to induce empathy with its heroine - and despite her second billing, it's Hailey's character that we stay with for most of the hour and a half - yet aiming to attract an exploitation/ horror audience by giving the viewer a lingering look of Ms Hailey's breasts. They get a second chance later. (And maybe to bring in a gay audience too, Hailey herself being gay and a known lesbian lust object. Also, co-star Gale Harold is best known for playing a gay man, in the US version of Queer As Folk, so all bases covered then.) You can sense the calculation... but even as a horror film Fertile Ground doesn't pass muster.

Emily's happiness doesn't last. Feeling queasy during a dinner party with her husband Nate (Gale Harold) and friends, she excuses herself to go to the bathroom... where she miscarries. Cue the title card, after which the couple retreat to Nate's family home in the countryside. The rest of the film - archly divided into chapter titles - takes place there. While Emily tries to overcome her loss and deal with the fact that she will most likely never conceive again, Nate (an artist) continues with his work. They find some ancient photographs and diaries, and Emily starts to see things. An ancient tragedy took place in this house (which rather conveniently no-one told her about) and she thinks it may be happening again...

You can sense the strategy: slow build-up of strangeness before the horror really begins, but pace is off from the outset and it drags. Fertile Ground is tedious, not scary, its set-pieces familiar from other similar films (only a couple of them pushing the certificate up to an 18), with decent if bland leading performances.

Shot digitally (on the Red One camera, which captures at 4K resolution), Fertile Ground is transferred to DVD in a ratio of 1.78:1, anamorphically enhanced. The soundtrack is Dolby digital 5.1, though the surrounds are mostly given over to the music score. There are no subtitles for the hard of hearing, nor are there - on the DVD-R screener I was given to review - any extras either.



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