Though not exactly like ROSEMARY’S BABY, FERTILE GROUND does share a lot of similarities. The central figure, Emily (played by the talented, girl next door beauty Liesha Hailey), is a meek housewife recovering from a traumatic miscarriage. Looking for a change of atmosphere, she moves with her husband (played capably by Gale Howard, doing his best John Cassavetes) to his ancestor’s home in the country. Almost immediately, bizarre stuff starts happening. Shapes move in the background. A handprint keeps appearing on a glass. Strange sounds come from the basement. Soon Emily is sure the house is haunted, but in true ROSEMARY’S BABY fashion, everyone thinks she’s nuts. A sudden revelation that Emily is pregnant doesn’t help matters as her fears are attributed to hormones and changes in her body.
Pregnancy horror is a fascinating subgenre to me. Being a man, the strange metamorphosis a woman’s body goes through never fails to intrigue me, especially since I will never go through the ordeal myself. The writing/directing team of husband and wife Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson do a fantastic job of amping up the chills and highlighting the “other-ness” of pregnancy. The feelings of solitude and alien thoughts of an organism growing inside are amped by Liesha Hailey’s fantastically restrained performance and the weird things going on around her. Yes, it’s reminiscent of Mia Farrow’s Rosemary, but Gierasch take some nice lefts when rights are expected later in the story. There are also more than a few nice scares littered throughout.
Though not entirely original, FERTILE GROUND is another great installment in this year’s After Dark Originals series. It’s a jarring ghost story with real life terrors of pregnancy layered in. The stunning Liesha Hailey gives nods to Mia Farrow’s iconic role without being an outright ape of the performance and Anderson and Gierasch’s script goes in a completely different direction than expected in the final act. FERTILE GROUND scared me more than a few times and gets under your skin more so than your usual modern ghost story due to its pregnancy horror themes.