Husk (2011)

Husk (2011)

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A group of friends have their weekend ruined when crows inexplicably smash themselves into their car windscreen, causing them to crash. When they come to, they find that one of their number has gone missing. Setting off to find their friend, the group head across a cornfield towards an old farmhouse in the hope that he ended up there. But they soon find out that there is something else in the cornfield – something evil and very deadly.

 

Who hasn’t driven past a scarecrow in a field and thought that they’re just a little bit unsettling, especially ones that are full-sized and have proper bodies of stray? It’s the perfect material for a horror film but one with which the genre seems content to stay well clear of. The killer scarecrow sub-genre must rank up there as one of the most criminally-underused horror sub-genres. There have been some truly awful killer scarecrow flicks over the years and only a handful of decent ones. But you look at other sub-genres like that of the evil clown or zombie and you see just how badly shafted the scarecrow has been. Husk is hardly going to change that status quo but it does have a few things going for it.

Like a lot of straight-to-DVD horrors these days, it’s blatantly obvious that there is talent behind the camera of Husk but once again, for some unknown reason, this talent is not able to shine through. Husk is so by-the-numbers and so routine that it’s a bit insulting to the viewer. This is not a knock on Husk specifically but most horror films nowadays – everyone seems so content to play it safe and not attempt to do anything different for fear that the film won’t make its money back. It’s about time studios gave the up-and-coming talent a bit more scope to do what they want with their films and see what happens.

Husk owes a great deal of its opening act to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: small group of teenage friends in the middle of nowhere heading towards an old farmhouse where suddenly all hell breaks loose. Unfortunately everything kicks off really quickly, leaving no time at all for the audience to get to know any of the characters. There’s no real hero of the piece here, just a group of characters who each take it in turns to take charge. They’re not a terrible bunch of characters but we know so little about them that the early (and tacky) romantic/break-up angle comes off more of desperation than anything. With no emotional attachment to them, the film becomes a little boring when they’re all put in peril. Why should we care about them when we don’t know anything about them? They could be escaped criminals for all we know. The script gives us no reason to root for them and even sees fit to write a couple out as quickly as it can so we’re left with three characters for the duration. Even between three characters, the script is unable to build any sort of characterisation with them. So what you get is three guys roaming around an old house and cornfields for an hour whilst weird things happen.

Husk is a competently made but inevitably bland horror which works well at times, not so well at others. It’s a film of two halves just like Hallowed Ground, another film I’ve seen recently which featured killer scarecrows and spooky fields. Both featured a decent first half with build-up and direction heading towards that of a slasher but then both featuring second halves which veered towards the supernatural and then ran into problems. The cornfield looks great. It’s such an underused setting for a horror film and this film will show you exactly why that is a crime. It looks just as sinister during the day as it does at night, with every way the camera turning revealing a seemingly never ending mass of maize. It doesn’t matter which way you look or move, it’s the same thing.

The scarecrows which menaces the group look alright too but there’s too little explained about why they come to life. There’s some attempt to flesh out the back story of the previous inhabitants of the house and why everything is happening but its all very flimsy and loosely connected. It’s when this supernatural angle comes into play and one of the characters starts seeing images from the past that the film loses its momentum. These flashbacks come out of nowhere and seem to be a cheap exit route for the writers to be able to explain the plot. Credit to the script though as it does stick to this path and manages to flesh out a series of in-film rules which need to be obeyed in order for the characters to make it out of their predicament. But I get the feeling that the setting and the scarecrows would have been a lot scarier had this been left out of the final draft.

 

The cornfield setting and presence of a killer scarecrow gives us a tantalizing glimpse of what may have been but instead, Husk ends up as a pedestrian horror which is well made and everything, it’s just ruined by a bog standard script which does nothing with the material. Straight off the conveyor belt of teen horror and consigned straight into the annuls of DVD history.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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