Emily and Nate Weaver leave the city for the rural comfort of Nate’s ancestral home in the country. Once there, Emily is plagued by horrifying visions and haunted by the ghosts inhabiting their isolated new home. When Nate’s behavior undergoes a strange and fearful metamorphosis, Emily fears she might be the latest target in a murderous tradition.
This sharp, well-crafted entry in the Lionsgate After Dark Originals horror series is a pretty timeless haunted-house movie that sets up a premise and builds with workmanlike tension that's neatly effective in gathering dread and throwing out scares. Nate and Emily are a young New York couple who after experiencing a miscarriage move to an old farmhouse upstate in an effort to heal Emily's psychic trauma and give Nate a place to concentrate on his work as a painter. The place is hardly rundown, but it has a creepy aura that immediately starts to manifest in subtle ways, betraying past events that happened there--none of them very pleasant. An old chest in the attic reveals portrait photographs that display eerie resemblances to Nate and Emily. Various other clues, including newspaper clippings, ancient artifacts, and research done by the absentminded town archivist, also reveal a history of violence that has dogged the house and its previous inhabitants for the past 100-plus years. There's even a decades-old skeleton uncovered in the front yard when the drain-rooter guys send their video camera snake down a clogged sewer pipe. Concurrent with these discoveries, Emily finds out she's pregnant again, an unexpected development that it seems might have something to do with the house itself and the history of mystery that has touched everyone who lived there. The film is divided into chapters that are sometimes a little facile in spelling out the goings on, with headings such as "Starting Over," "Strange Happenings," and "Revelations." There's a touch of the fake-dramatic and an overly ominous portent that hovers over some of the proceedings, but the production design is terrific, the cinematography and editing skillful, and the acting squarely on caliber for the overall tone. Things do get kind of overwrought as the climax approaches: the perfectly cued thunder and lightning builds to an absolute paroxysm of horrific booming and flashing that's timed to the inevitable bouts of screaming. But Fertile Ground
is an efficient and satisfying little thriller with just the right touch of natural and supernatural frights and an ending that's pretty genuinely creepy. --Ted Fry