The Cleansing Field
“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
|Preacher — Russell Halvorson||Writer, Director — John Johnson|
|Girl — Madison Atkinson||Producer — C Michael Whaley|
|Father — Tweed Michael Manning||Camera — John Johnson, Scott Johnson|
|Assistant — C Michael Whaley||Gaffer — Andre Williams|
|Sound — TJ Price|
|Key Grip — Claude Rossen|
|Editor — Scott Johnson|
|Set Photography — April Atkinson|
|Craft Services — Barbara Nyenhuis|
We were really excited for this film. We loved the story and were able to secure a great location for the shoot. Here’s the story:
A father becomes increasingly concerned that his daughter is exhibiting wild and irrational behavior that is not normal for a young girl. Although he has made attempts correct this, her actions force him to look elsewhere. He is given the name of a traveling preacher, who although is a man of faith, is not affiliated with any established church. The man agrees to meet him on a selected night in a clearing away from town.
At the designated time, the preacher sends his assistant to fetch the girl and her father. They arrive back at the clearing where a fire is already burning. The hesitant father approaches the preacher, seeking confirmation that this ritual is necessary and affirmation that he made the right choice. The preacher simply responds, “I am sure of my Creator.” The cryptic line does not calm the father, but he resumes his place next to his daughter.
The preacher begins the ceremony with lines from an age-old ritual. After a few moments, the preacher notices that nothing is happening. He continues on, louder this time. The girl, not having been told why she is there, becomes confused and asks the father if they can leave. The preacher mistakenly takes this as a sign that the evil spirits within her are growing restless. Again, the preacher continues…louder and stronger.
As the girl pleads with her father to go home, the preacher asks his assistant to move her closer. The preacher places his hand on her head and begins to yell the incantation. The terrified girl starts to twist and pull away. With this, the preacher knows he is near his goal. In a passionate fury, the preacher rears back and smacks the girl’s face, demanding the evil spirits depart.
The father jumps forward to protect his daughter, but the preacher hits her two more times before the father shoves the preacher back. The assistant lunges at the father and punches him in the face, knocking him out. The preacher looks down at his hands and sees the cross in his hand, broken from the blows he delivered to her head.
Completely enraged, the preacher spouts, “You shall not put the Lord, Your God, to the test!” He jumps down onto the girl who was knocked to the ground and begins to strangle her with this hands. The girl resists, but is no match for the crazed preacher. During the struggle, quick flashes of an evil demon appear behind the preacher.
Once the struggle is over and the girl is dead, the preacher stumbles back and takes a moment to collect himself. He is visibly shaken, but not remorseful. The assistant hands the preacher his Bible and they both depart.
After a little while, the father regains consciousness and sees his daughter on the ground. She is not moving. He crawls to her and realizes she is dead. He cradles her head in his lap and wails out to the sky above.
The last scene shows the preacher and the assistant in their truck ready to move on. The preacher asks how many more of these rituals he must complete. The assistant checks his notes and says two. They both remain silent as the engine starts up and the truck drives away.
We really liked this story. Not because it involved the church (which does bring a spiritual aspect to a horror story (always a plus)), but because of the way the characters were developed in such a short time.
Unfortunately, we were not able to put in the backstory, which is critical to understanding the film…there is nothing wrong with the girl. She is not possessed or affected in any way. She’s just a little different from everyone else. Hence the reason that the exorcism did not work. There was nothing to exorcise.
This is a reflection of the problem we see in our society today…difference is not acceptable. Wandering just slightly off the beaten path is chastised. People are not free to be themselves. Especially children. It is a shame that people don’t understand this.
There has been on/off talk of doing a follow up to this film…one where we get to see where the preacher and assistant go next, why these select children are being killed, what happens when all is done, and what is the end-game of the power behind all of this. But we have so much in front of us, we don’t know if this will ever come about.
It was a tough shoot for a few reasons. Lighting was very difficult as we were out in the middle of a field and had to run multiple extension cords for hundreds of feet to distant lights. Also, we had two unusual sources of light: a bonfire, which provided a really nice warm glow to the surroundings, and a makeshift light wall that was meant to diffuse the normal harsh light kits. It did the job, but made cutting back and forth between characters difficult to match.
We also had to deal with rain on and off through the night. It wasn’t that bad once we were able to cover the lights and cameras sufficiently, but we kept having to start and stop scenes with everyone running back and forth to craft services. It made for a long night.
Overall a fun time and a decent picture. Although we believed it not to be festival-worthy, it turned out to be a decent film that made us confident we were moving in the right direction.
On to our next film, Midnight Macabre!