SXSW Review: The Honor Farm

SXSW“The Honor Farm” wants to simultaneously be a coming of age story and a horror story, but cannot overcome its bland mediocrity. It’s not focused enough to sustain interest, but it’s short enough to not walk out on. That’s the deceptive brilliance of the film; at under 80 minutes, by the time you realize just how meaningless the story is, it quickly comes to an end.

Poor Lucy. She just wants to have a fun prom with her best friend Annie and lose her virginity to her meathead boyfriend. Soon enough though, her date is drunk, puking all over the outside of their limo. With nowhere to go, Lucy and Annie ditch the prom, soon meeting up with a goth classmate, Laila, who brings the two along to an abandoned  prison. Where people were once tortured. And it’s haunted. Within this new group of friends is JD, a cardboard cut-out heartthrob who helps to convince Lucy and Annie to take some shrooms.

Before we even enter this haunted establishment, “The Honor Farm” reveals how airless it is through endless psychadelic teenage philosophy. “There’s a sunrise every ten minutes,” one characters proclaims. One feels as if they’ve sat through many after this film is over.

Director Karen Skloss lacks any sense of buildup or tension. We witness a couple unusual moments in the prison, and the films briefly plays with the idea that it’s all part of the trip. It won’t matter because immediately after, the answer is clumsily revealed in a revelation I assume was meant to be a shock, but just comes across as rushed.

The cast does their best with the material. Olivia Grace Applegate and Katie Folger have great chemistry as two young women who simply want to have a fun prom. Dora Madison gets some laughs as a stereotypical who-cares teenage goth.

We’re supposed to recognize how this experience changes our protagonists, yet when they walk out of the prison, they’re back to another twenty minutes of turgid philosophy, this time under the moon. Every moment in “The Honor Farm” is inconsequential. There’s no sense of growth, no wisdom that is gained. Skloss throws everything she can at us, from visions of woodland beasts, to demons, to visions of death, but none of it stands out.

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