SXSW: “The Honor Farm” is wimpy, wannabe horror

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of SXSW

What did I just watch?

That’s the question most people will ask after seeing “The Honor Farm,” a teen horror film that has seems more interested in telling a coming-of-age story than spinning a creepy yarn. Like its central character, Lucy (Olivia Applegate), it suffers from an identity crisis that results in all setup and no payoff.

The film commences with Lucy and her friend Annie (Katie Folger) attending prom. Lucy’s jock boyfriend gets drunk, upsetting Lucy, who goes with Annie to get cigarettes at a gas station. They run into the outcasts of their high school, who plan to do mushrooms in the forest, and join them on a whim.

The outcasts are paper-thin characters who are written as dull, archetypal weirdos. They speak pretentiously, and they are all wholly unlikable. Lucy is the only character who has any depth, with her desire to experience genuine emotions with someone placed at the forefront of the story. It’s a nice goal to give a character, but Lucy’s arc ends up being largely disconnected from the story when the teens end up at an abandoned prison and stumble upon a Satanic ritual.

The actual ritual itself isn’t scary, and the atmosphere of the prison itself is overbearingly dark. In other words, it tries too hard to unnerve viewers. Animal carcasses, deer masks, graffiti, deepening shadows - these all make appearances without being properly employed for maximum effect.

Mentions of the supernatural lead nowhere, and the presence of apparent spirits receive no further explanation, because just as “The Honor Farm” hits its horror element, it almost immediately abandons it. The teens escape the prison quite easily and appear to forget about the ritual for no reason. Lucy later experiences a vision with an absurdly funny resolution that will make anyone expecting more feel cheated.

This picture that most resembles “The Blackcoat’s Daughter,” a moody horror film that ended up fizzling out before anything interesting could even happen. Yet, while “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” successfully created an unsettling atmosphere, “The Honor Farm” fails in that regard.

“The Honor Farm’s” primary theme is about the growth of girls into women. Lucy’s journey on prom night involves her taking charge of her own destiny and learning she can refuse to obey society’s attempts to control her. But themes don’t mean anything when they aren’t expressed in a compelling way.

Events occur in “The Honor Farm” and Lucy grows as a character, but it fails to fulfill the promise that movies make from their opening moments, the promise that something worth watching will happen.

In the end, the highest praise that can be offered to this time waster is that it is a movie.
 

“The Honor Farm”

Running Time: 74 minutes

Rating: NR

Score: 0.5/5 stars