Now we’ll have to dispose of two, maybe three perfectly healthy adults – one that would’ve given us milk for at least a year. Do you know how much that costs? … how many times have I told you not to play with the food.”Innkeeper reprimands Andrew
Camille A. Marino
December 7, 2018
Except for ominous background music setting an eerie tone, Alec and Nora are on a road trip through a countryside that could be any small town in America. With hours left to drive, they stop off at a diner, each ordering a medium-rare cheeseburger and fries before they find a motel to get some rest. An average but odd-looking innkeeper assures them that they are among a steady stream of guests before leaving them to settle in; the couple drifts off to sleep. The abject horror and searing commentary of The Farm lies solely in the ordinariness of every one we meet and the cultural normalcy of torture, murder, and butchery.
Nora awakens in a cage and is introduced to her chilling new reality as dairy stock. With routine precision, two men wearing animal masks restrain her ankles in a leg spreader and rape her with a rod, euphemistically known as artificial insemination, before transporting her cage to the dairy shed. The milk humans are bruised, some with missing teeth and tear-streaked dirty faces. Suction cups are attached to their breasts to siphon their milk into industrial vats. One of these female adults is nursing an infant to whom she has just given birth. The baby is extracted from her arms and weighed before its head is smashed into the cement floor. The mother wails and the audience may infer that the small human is veal stock.
Alec awakes in his own cage, chained with a bit in his mouth; he is simply a meat animal. While dirty, bruised, and tormented, the male humans do not contend with the daily sexual abuse rampant in the dairy. A rancher carrying a bag full of human arms suggests that their enslavement is simply to harvest their body parts. Most of the farm hands are anonymous behind animal masks although it is clear that this little agricultural community is the hub of life in town. The innkeeper also manages the farm; a dimwitted worker named Andrew works in the gas station; and, clearly, this business is supplying ever-growing orders for chopped meat, stew meat, and other special cuts albeit with the occasional complaint. One customer is disturbed at finding a tooth in their meal.
After reading several critical or luke-warm reviews of Hans Stjernswärd’s work, the reviewers demand as much critique as does the movie. Perhaps most are unimpressed with the real-life horror show in which we’ve cast nonhuman animals. Maybe just don’t care. While I find it profound that Nora and Alec began their journey by eating human-based cheeseburgers only to become food animals themselves, the handful of reviewers I’ve read are likely so far removed from the source of their food that they refuse to grasp the significance when it’s literally acted out for them. And cinematographer Egor Povolotskiy must be acknowledged for documenting the reality of humane dairy and food production in general. As every activist know, if we were to sneak into a dairy farm and video the exact same scenes with the actual cows, we’d likely be prosecuted on federal charges.
In The Farm, there are no anomalous blood-thirsty murderers, masked killers hiding in the dark, or impending evil lurking behind a clouded, foggy sky. Nope. These things are all woven into the fabric of the business and normalized within the context of food production. If one is looking for a cheap thrill, this film offers all the sadism, blood lust, and psychopathology that horror fans crave. However, I suspect that most are not hardcore enough to lift those animal masks that punctuate this film to see that what lies beneath is every one of us who consumes nonhuman animals’ body parts, secretions, and torment.