Tag Archives: Karen Skloss

HIGH ON THE FARM: A CHAT WITH KAREN SKLOSS (2017)

Meeting on the patio of the Irish Embassy[1], I enjoyed an extended conversation with Karen Skloss, the director of The Honor Farm (2017, reviewed here).

Karen SklossAll right, this is Giles Edwards from 366 Weird Movies here with the director of The Honor Farm, Karen Skloss. We’re going to discuss the first fictional feature she’s directed, having previously directed Sunshine, a 2009 documentary that played on PBS and elsewhere concerning the nature of pregnancy, your daughter…

Karen Skloss: And changing family values, I guess, and looking at motherhood and women’s place in the family and structures…Kind of like a personal essay film. A very personal story; the “personal is political” kind of thing.

366: I read, courtesy of IMDB, that you did a little of previous work in film editing. Is that how you started in the filmmaking business?

KS: I still do it, right now I’m editing Andrew Bujalski’s new movie, I’m really excited about it.

366: Now is what do you think will be your future career? Focusing on editing? Focusing on directing feature films?

KS: I guess it’s a slow transition to… [At this point, bar noise grew excessive] …I kind of wonder if we should be outside.
I guess we’ll take a field-trip with this recorder and keep our fingers crossed. [Traveling outside, far quieter.]
Now we’re talking! I had a vision, and no one separates a director from her vision.

366: Except for the producers and money-men, right?

KS: [Laughs] Right! Now, this is more like a cafe interview.
Yes, 2009 was my last feature, my directorial debut, with lots of editing in between, and now some more editing. But it’s cool, because I’m going to get another one off the ground soon. I would love to direct as my “bread and butter”, but I also love editing, so it’s totally fine.

366: Your preceding movie went back about a decade, with the family ponderings. You mentioned [at the screening] your daughter was a teenager now, so I presume she was born well before the movie that concerned her and you.

KS: Yeah. It’s funny, I started shooting while I was pregnant. It was one of those projects that happened slowly while I was working as an editor and doing other projects. I was slowly doing this personal essay over many years.

366: Obviously getting into film is a dream for a lot of people. Did Continue reading HIGH ON THE FARM: A CHAT WITH KAREN SKLOSS (2017)

  1. Not the actual embassy, but a nearby pub where Fantasia-types gather most every night. []

LIST CANDIDATE: THE HONOR FARM (2017)

DIRECTED BY: Karen Skloss

FEATURING: Olivia Grace Applegate, Louis Hunter, Katie Folger, , Mackenzie Astin

PLOT: After a disappointing senior prom, Lucy and Annie ditch their dates and join up with a clutch of hearse-driving students who are heading to the haunted prison, the Honor Farm, to take psychedelic mushrooms; Lucy slips in and out of reality as events take alternatingly sinister and joyful turns.

Still from The Honor Farm (2017)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LISTThe Honor Farm is an unlikely fusion of “teen-coming-of-age” drama and “teens-in-danger” horror. Combined with the rampant symbolism (a prom, a stag, and a donut), things might just be weird enough for us.

COMMENTS: Shroom-chomping teenagers, a dreamy hearse ride, an abandoned prison, and a looming stag adorn the universe of The Honor Farm. This fun mix of ingredients from filmmaker Karen Skloss jumbles together with gusto, emerging as a horror-tinged and symbolism-soaked high school drama. The New Age blood-dream opening sets the ambiguous tone of calm and dissonance that continues throughout the feature.

Waking from a dream at the dentist’s office—a girl does have to have her teeth as white as possible for prom, you know—Lucy (Olivia Applegate) seems all set for the first big night of her adult life. After her beau nearly vomits on her in the back of their rented limo, Lucy and her friend Annie (Katie Folger) run off to a nearby gas station and encounter a group of senior girls in an old red hearse. One City of Women-style ride later, the gaggle of teen ladies arrive at the outskirts of the “Honor Farm”, an old prison with a bad history of brutality. Lucy meets dreamy (and interesting) high school boy J.D. (Louis Hunter), who doles out the mushrooms. After a bout of faux-intellectual philosophizing, teen-style, ambiguous events begin in earnest. Cue the horror music.

Narrative tricks and references abound. When one young woman attempts to channel to a dead boy, J.D. leads Lucy through a tunnel opening in parallel. As we see the tunnel exit collapsed, the ritual, too, is interrupted. We award points both for the arrival of a dentist with laughing gas as well as a vision of a sacrifice victim posing the riddle, “What has no end, beginning, or middle?” Answer? A donut, obviously. And oh yes, Skloss also tucks in faerie ring imagery (mushrooms, again), the goddess Diana-as-Stag spirit guide, and a flaming playing card with a purpose. (This last example could almost be a meta-reference to “The Simpsons” “Twin Peaks” parody: “this suit burns better.”)

Though I may be rambling here, Skloss never does. Those who’ve read my reviews know that I’m a big fan of efficient films. At 77 minutes, The Honor Farm certainly isn’t over-long, but neither does it skimp on narrative and character development. Lucy is at a new place in her life, wanting to “feel something real.” Ironically, it takes unreal experiences to satisfy this craving. The Honor Farm has just the right levels of teen-comedy, scares, myth, and ambiguity to sit well with itself. Kudos.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“While there are definitely some interesting aspects to The Honor Farm, it often succumbs to a lack of focus, ultimately feeling like a mishmash of five different movies with none of the elements coming together in a truly complimentary way by the end of the film. Skloss offers up a hypnotic coming-of-age tale with shades of horror—there’s some supernatural stuff thrown in, as well as a weird cultish subplot… I just wanted more for Lucy on her journey of self-discovery than what we ultimately get here. The film does offer up some stunning cinematography, particularly during The Honor Farm’s more surreal moments during Lucy’s fantasy…”–Heather Wixson, Daily Dead (SWSX screening)