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‘The Honor Farm’ (review)

Produced By David Hartstein
Written By Karen Skloss, Jay Tonne Jr.
Directed By Karen Skloss
Starring Olivia Applegate, Louis Hunter,
Dora Madison Burge, Liam Aiken, Katie Folger,
Josephine McAdams, Christina Parrish,
Mackenzie Astin, Will Brittain,
Samuel Davis, Johnny Mars

 

 

You don’t need to like scary movies to know that senior prom goes hand in hand with terror. I’m not just talking about the dance’s on-screen appearances from Carrie to Prom Night. The real thing is simultaneously cliché and surreal enough without the buckets of blood.

The Austin-based filmmakers of The Honor Farm are well aware that the only thing scarier than prom itself, is what happens after it.  As each Spring brings a fresh round of teen angst over possible events like securing a date to picking a dress, it’s most likely to accumulate with post-prom peer-pressure and poor decision-making.

The trippy new film from co-writer/director Karen Skloss (Sunshine) made its World Premiere at SXSW this week, programmed to a midnight-movie crowd likely to appreciate it best in its wider release. Things get started on relatively familiar pre-prom ground with a pair of BFFs, Lucy (Olivia Applegate, Revolution) and Annie (Katie Folger, Zero Charisma). Thinking their dream dates will allow “for a night where they’re free to do whatever they want,” they’re instead forced to lower expectations as the guys devolve into douchebags.

Lucy, the film’s primary character, acts as narrator, one that’s stuck somewhere between reality and dream. As she describes it, “going through the motions.” It’s a theme not just relatable by anyone ever seeing direction at that age, and explored at length in media. Even Buffy sang about it with feeling.

Things take a macabre turn when our good girls meet with an assortment of the school’s freaks and geeks, headed for a excursion to an abandoned destination known as “the honor farm” via hearse. On their way, they tell horror stories of the infamous prison work-farm, passing along schrooms that kick in en route to the destination. Where into Rob Zombie territory here, primed for an increasing body count with an inkling of who’s getting bumped first.

Without giving too much away, the film is surprisingly refrained from following its slasher set-up. It has its heart in the horror genre, playing it for fun with conventions ruined in recent years via the found-footage format.

There are some genuinely creepy moments to be had, but Honor Farm is more focused on the strange than the scares. Its genre is Teen Drama, where characters pick desire over reason and dreams over reality. That satanic rituals are no more unusual than the ritual of senior prom, might be the strangest takeaway of all here.

Applegate and Folger have great chemistry, and they ground the film as relatable prom queen candidates, while the rest of the teens play on the more burn-out stereotypes of the high school experience. Because the girls trip on mushrooms too, the point of view to the story shifts as can’t be trusted. A lot of it isn’t explained or necessarily straight-forward, but it’s an entirely entertaining head-trip of a midnight movie.

 

The Honor Farm is currently playing at SXSW 2017 and will screen
on Thursday, March 16 at Alamo Lamar B 12:15pm —1:29pm

For further details, visit thehonorfarm.com

 

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