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The Honor Farm (Fantasia 2017)

There's a lot of pressure on teenagers to have a perfect prom night, and the kids in The Honor Farm are certainly feeling it. Even if you're one of the relatively cool kids, as Lucy (Olivia Grace Applegate) seems to be, that's still no guarantee of a magical evening. Things start out pretty well, but when boyfriend Jake (Will Brittain) gets falling-down drunk, Lucy flees the prom in tears with best friend Annie (Katie Folger).

That's when they encounter Laila (Dora Madison Burge), a local stoner and her friends. They're off on an adventure, Laila says, and since she thinks the 'nice girls' are funny, she urges them to come along on their trip to the old Honor Farm. The place is supposed to be haunted by the ghosts of long-dead mistreated prisoners, and sometimes you can even find the remnants of satanic rituals. These seem to me like good reasons to avoid the place, but Lucy has been longing for 'something real' to happen, and she thinks this might be her chance.

Certainly the Honor Farm looks haunted, not to mention an extremely popular spot for thrill-seeking kids to hang out, judging by the mess and graffiti. A boy named JD (Louis Hunter) takes Lucy under his wing, teaching her things like how much mushrooms to try when you've never really done anything like that before, and yes, these are those kinds of mushrooms. If you're ghost-hunting it's always a good idea to ingest some hallucinogenic substance first, right?

Exactly on cue, things get really weird. The kids encounter three people and an adorable little goat there for some form of sacrificial ritual, and to her shock, Lucy recognizes one of the people (Mackenzie Astin). He issues dire warnings that the kids shouldn't interrupt what they don't understand, but of course they do anyway and that's when the entire movie shifts a little. The problem is that the film now can't decide exactly what it wants to be and turns into a strange mixture of fantasy, horror, comedy, and drug-fueled fever dream. Lucy was longing for something real and instead got something surreal, or perhaps unreal might be a better word.

In any case the movie doesn't quite live up to its potential, with the 'life-altering' events all too likely to be utterly dismissed in the morning as a really weird trip. The film does at least have some fun with upending a few horror movie tropes, and the characterizations are solid -- even with a fairly large cast most of the teens get to have something of their own identity rather than simply being character types. In the end it's an enticing experiment that didn't entirely succeed, a beautiful film without a lot of weight to it, but still an enjoyable experience.

Image: 
The kids stare at the moon. They'd forgotten how psychedelic it can be.

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