Friday, May 13, 2011

Does Farming Monthly have a review section?

When farmer John Rollins buys a farm in Messengers 2: The Scarecrow, it comes with a tractor, a ropes course, a barn full of hay (but no animals) and a corn field he can't get to grow corn in twenty minutes of trying.

He paid a lot for it, probably too much since he obviously doesn't know anything about farming, like that you have to water plants and that you can't eat ornamental corn that's been wired to the stalk's armpits. Oh, also you're never going to grow enough corn to live on if you're doing it in a field the size of a basketball court.

His terrible farm failing, he blames the crows (who also have no interest in eating the corn), and brings out the scarecrow from the secret compartment in his barn. Do not pause to say "What?"

Things go pretty well for Rollins once he gets the scarecrow up — the crows all die, his new neighbor (the "Jump to Conclusions" guy from "Office Space") brings him a beer, the bank agent gets hit by a semi that somehow means Rollins doesn't have to pay his mortgage, he sees his neighbor's wife inexplicably topless and rubbing herself in soft focus with her nipples blurred out.

In exchange for all this good fortune, Rollins pretty much destroys any sympathy you might have for him. Played by the perpetually squinty Norman Reedus, Rollins rapes his wife, fantasizes about killing his kids, and thinks that sowing a crop means whipping kernels into dying cornfields and wearing designer shirts. The movie rewards him with full, harvestable ears the next day, making sure that worse than an inept loser, he's an undeserving winner. At least everyone else realizes that his desire to wear the accessories of murdered men is troubling, and that his explanation that the scarecrow did it is pretty psychotic.

But, suddenly afraid of the inevitable conclusion that people bad at farming kill their families, the film suddenly veers into rubber monster territory. The twist is that there's no twist. The scarecrow's somehow related to the top hand's grandfather's exposition exposition black magic and what could have been a credible, if half-assed, anti-boozer morality play suddenly wants to be taken seriously as scary business. The rubber guy chases one of the kids around, fights an already K.O.ed deputy, then gives the mandatory minimum suspense time threatening the other kid before getting walloped with a thresher.

Even by the logic of horror movies, the ultimate resolution is a failure — the family just pulls the stuffing out of the scarecrow and stores him back in the secret room in the barn, instead of burning it. Perhaps because the family just moved to the farm that afternoon, they don't realize that one of the best parts of farm life is bonfires. Have we come so far from our witch-burning past?

Happily, we can assume that killing the deputy and the man from the bank did nothing to assuage Rollins' financial or legal troubles, and that the film focuses on perfunctory sequel bait because neither his boring family nor the bad farmer will be in it.

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