Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fantasia 2017: The Honor Farm

Back in college me and my friends used to do what any and all good college students do at night, which is drop acid and break into the closest cemetery and wander around freaking each other out. My recollections of those nights consist of two main points. First, somebody would always get too freaked out after about fifteen minutes and we'd end up running the hell out of there and staring at the floor in the bus depot instead. And second, the next morning when the drugs had worn off we would be filthy. Just filthy. Like black grime under the nails gross. I could never remember what I had done to get that dirty, but it was a hallmark of the experience.

The Honor Farm, which just screened at Fantasia Fest, feels pretty true to both of those experiences. Lucy (Olivia Grace Applegate) and Annie (Katie Folger) planned for the perfect prom night, but what they got instead was one broken relationship and one barfing boyfriend and a lot of dashed hopes and dreams. So when the weird girls in the festive hearse offer them a good time getting fucked up in the woods (and to maybe go wander around the abandoned prison that gives the film its title) they take it. Why not? What have they got to lose?

Director Karen Skloss comes from a documentary background, and there's an unforced ease to the way she watches these kids in The Honor Farm's early scenes - they might look the part of Prom Princesses and Goth Girls but nobody plays it quite that broadly, and the characters all find common ground and seem to genuinely enjoy each other's company in unexpected ways. Everybody's damaged no matter their social strata, and The Honor Farm is a movie that recognizes that in the best John Hughes tradition.

Then the suburban dentist in the pink polo shirt shows up performing some sort of satanic ritual with a goat and Michelle Forbes, and shit gets weird. (Sidenote: Forbes is entirely uncredited for this film for some reason, but she was clearly cast to inject some of her True Blood hoodoo on the proceedings.) But is shit getting weird because these kids ate fistfuls of mushrooms, or is the weird honest and true?

The Honor Farm has zero - less than zero - interest in sorting that out for you. Indeed it complicates your ability to suss out any answers every chance it gets - if it's all a hallucination then why is that adorable baby goat not going anywhere? At one point one character has dream sex with the cute boy (sidenote: google Louis Hunter immediately) and in the next scene it seems he might have had the same dream?

I don't know. The film dodges back and forth across the line of frustrating and fascinating in its second half (and it just sort of... ends) but in that way that echoes my memories of actual hallucinogenic experiences. I once saw the meaning of life in a sunrise, but by the time I'd come to all I had to show for it was black caked fingernails and a hangover.
Previously from Fantasia:
Sequence Break reviewed here
Animals reviewed here
Game of Death reviewed here

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