SXSW 2017: The Honor Farm
The Honor Farm is an endlessly imaginative dreamscape that drunkenly straddles the line between teen comedy and horror. Karen Skloss’s debut narrative feature introduces an ambitious and challenging filmmaker who promises to do the unexpected. In fact, the film reflects this, having a lot to do with expectations itself.
It’s an exciting entry into the horror comedy genre with echoes of Dazed and Confused, Heathers, and Berberian Sound Studio; though, it is far from perfect. This juggling of genres is undeniably disjointed and it could have relied more on subtext given its wonderful visuals. Still, the constantly expanding narrative is one of its greatest strengths, never feeling like it’s out of ideas and it almost never stops moving. The camera is, in one moment, a naturalistic spectator and, in the next, a surreal voyeur. Even when it loses focus, it never runs out of steam. From gentle encounters with falling stars to summoning the dead, The Honor Farm is an awkward and messy laugh in the face of seriousness — wonderfully representative of how nauseous the nondescript passage from childhood to adulthood can be.
So, we come to Lucy. She just wants something real to happen. Her ennui has little to do with her success, or lack thereof, as it appears she is living life the “right way.” Yet, that’s just the thing, Lucy has never lived life on her own terms. Even her prom night is a kind of manufactured freedom where she’s allowed to do whatever she wants but that’s what is expected of her anyway. So, when her night falls apart, she finds herself in a hearse with her best friend and a handful of strangers headed for the woods with the promise of shrooms. It’s an act of impulse and a rejection of the status quo, something the movie seems to support.
What follows is an expressionistic drug trip into the forest to find a haunted and abandoned prison where some look for answers and others explore its neglected halls. We all know the formula: sex, drugs, and alcohol. The omens of death, right? Not here. Skloss takes these horror tropes and, rather than deconstructing them, subverts them with a modernist approach. It’s a coming of age horror for the more creative and less cynical younger generation that is tired of tearing things down and is ready to start building something new.