Texas Killing Fields (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
January 23, 2012 by Dennis Amith
Dark, eerie but in this storyline based on the true events of the unsolved murders in Texas, the film features a storyline with “hope”. And with that hope, maybe this film becomes a catalyst that will lead to the real-life cold cases from being solved. “Texas Killing Fields” does leave the viewer with a bittersweet feeling but overall, it is an average crime thriller.
TITLE: Texas Killing Fields
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 105 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Spanish Mono, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
COMPANY: Anchor Bay Films
RATED: R (For Violence and Languge, including some sexual references)
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Directed by Ami Canaan Mann
Writte by Don Ferrarone
Producer: Michael Jaffe, Michael Mann
Co-Producer: Travis Mann
Executive Producer: Bill Block, A. John A. Bryan Jr., Paul Hanson, Michael Jaffe, Michael Ohoven, Ethan Smith, Justin Thomson
Music by Dickon Hinchliffe
Cinematography by Stuard Dryburgh
Edited by Cindy Mollo
Casting by Chris Gray
Production Design by Aran Mann
Art Direction by Jonah Markowitz
Set Decoration by Leonard R. Spears
Costume Design by Christopher Lawrence
Sam Worthington as Det. Mike Souder
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Brian Heigh
Jessica Chastain as Det. Pam Stall
Chloe Grace Moretz as Little Anne Sliger
Corie Berkemeyer as Shauna Kittredge
Maureen Brennan as Mrs. Kittredge
Tony Bentley as Captain Bender
James Hebert as Eugene Sliger
Annabeth Gish as Gwen Heigh
nspired by true events, this tense and haunting thriller follows Detective Souder (Sam Worthington), a homicide detective in a small Texan town, and his partner, transplanted New York City cop Detective Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) as they track a sadistic serial killer dumping his victims’ mutilated bodies in a nearby marsh locals call “The Killing Fields.” Though the swampland crime scenes are outside their jurisdiction, Detective Heigh is unable to turn his back on solving the gruesome murders. Despite his partner’s warnings, he sets out to investigate the crimes. Before long, the killer changes the game and begins hunting the detectives, teasing them with possible clues at the crime scenes while always remaining one step ahead. When familiar local girl Anne (Chloë Grace Moretz) goes missing, the detectives find themselves racing against time to catch the killer and save the young girl’s life.
Through the ’70s and to the ’90s, law authorities and residents living near League City, Texas have been in fear that a serial killer was hunting young women and dumping their bodies in a dumping ground known as the “Killing Field”. Around 60 unsolved murders happened between those three decades and these bodies were found in the swamp field.
Four bodies of sexually assaulted women have been found nude, face looking up under the trees and their arms crossed and placed within a hundred yard radius from each other and the planned placement of these bodies shown that killer head premeditated these murders to create a path of bodies that may have been scene as trophies. To this day, these murders have remained unsolved.
These murders inspired the 2011 crime film “Texas Killing Fields”, a film directed by Ami Canaan Mann (“Heat”, “Morning”, “Nancy Drew”) and written by Don Ferrarone (“Man on Fire”, “Bad Boys II”, “Deja Vu”).
The film would star Sam Worthington (“Avatar”, “Clash of the Titans”, “Terminator Salvation”), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Watchment”, “The Losers”, “P.S. I Love You”), Jessica Chastain (“The Help”, “Tree of Life”, “Take Shelter”) and Chloe Grace Moretz (“(500) Days of Summer”, “Hugo”, “Kick-Ass”).
“Texas Killing Fields” is film about Detective Brian Heigh (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a former NYPD police officer and his partner Detective Mike Sounder (played by Sam Worthington) working on a case of a young woman who was brutally murdered. As the men began to investigate the death of the young woman, Brian ends up helping a young teen named Little Anne Sliger (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), who comes from a broken home and her mother often has men at their home and thus, kicks Anne out of the house.
Both Brian and Mike, know that Anne has a bad family life but they try to let the mother know (including the men that show up to their house) that the police are watching them.
One day, as Anne is walking home, a man tries to offer her a ride but she declines. This same man is then seen near an area of town where both detectives are trying to find information on the murdered woman.
Meanwhile, as the Detectives are trying to find out more information for their murder case, Detective Pam Stall (played by Jessica Chastain), also the former wife of Detective Mike Sounder has found a dead body in her jurisdiction near the Killing Fields. And because both of them found young women murdered, that the bodies may be related.
Because of Pam’s bad relationship with Mike, she tells Brian that if there is anything related between the murdered woman case they are working on and the one she is working on, to please let her know. But Detective Sounder reminds his partner that their jurisdiction is the city not the county, so they can’t get involved.
One night, a woman who is putting her child to sleep is nearly killed by someone. A loud noise makes the perpetrator leave, and the woman calls the police for help. But as she does, the killer once again tries to kill the victim but the police arrive and the man runs away. Both Detective Mike Sounder and Brian Heigh go after the perpetrator but he escapes.
While they interview the woman who was harmed, she tells him that it was not one man that tried to kill her, there were two of them. Immediately, they receive a call from a woman who calls the detectives for their help and they can hear her screaming and being killed.
As Brian contacts Detective Pam Stall, they both head out to the area and once again, a woman is murdered and found the same way as the others. There is a finger print on the woman but unfortunately, because she was submerged in water, it is lost.
And for Brian, it becomes personal because the woman who was murdered called them, even though they were not from the same jurisdiction. We learn that in New York City, Brian was working on a cold case that was never solved, but this time around, he desperately wants to solve these murder cases. Unfortunately, his partner Mike disagrees.
Mike reminds Brian that the Killing Fields is not their jurisdiction and because he knows the area, that area of town is not where people like him should be. The people operate differently and it is best that he focuses on what happens in the city and not get involved in a jurisdiction that is not theirs.
Brian refuses to listen to his partner as he has taken these murders to these women personally and now wants to stop the killer, despite the murders happening in the Killing Fields, a dumping ground a few miles away from the city.
Meanwhile, the trouble Little Ann Sliger tends to have no place to stay at times because of her mother’s activity at home, so Brian lets her stay with his family for dinner at times and tends to watch over her.
But as the investigation of the murder case continues to escalate due to multiple murders, Mike grows suspicious of his partner Brian breaking protocol and trying to work on murder cases in another jurisdiction.
But all hell breaks loose when Brian who was taking Anne Sliger back home, makes a quick stop to a convenience store. While he tells Anne to grab some medication for him inside and he is talking on his cell phone, Anne is abducted from the convenience store and now he worries that it may be the serial killer.
“Texas Killing Fields” is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen (2:40:1). The picture quality featured vibrant and colorful scenes during the outdoor sequences but there were some scenes indoors that had some banding issues. Black levels were deep and the night sequences were also well done and also detail was very good on subjects and objects. If anything, cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”, “The Piano”, “Analyze This”) did a wonderful job in capturing the the darker side of “The Killing Fields” and also enjoyed the lighting techniques used for many scenes.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Texas Killing Fields” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and while I was hoping the lossless soundtrack would be immersive, the soundtrack is primarily dialogue-driven with ambient noises. There are scenes with gunshots but other than that, it’s a dialogue driven film. I really didn’t hear anything strong coming from the surround or rear surround channels and heard mostly audio coming primarily from the center and front channels.
Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
“Texas Killing Fields” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by director Ami Canaan Mann and writer Don Ferrarone.
“Texas Killing Fields” is a dark crime film that is inspired by real events in Texas. And also an important film in which authorities can only hope the film brings interest and possibly hopes that someone will come forward with more clues for these many unsolved murders and abductions that had taken place through the ’70s through the ’90s.
Authorities believe the killings may have been done by three serial killers, families are still awaiting justice and those responsible have yet to be caught.
“Texas Killing Fields” is a fictional amalgamation of what had taken place at the time and is not based on any individual case but “Texas Killing Fields” tries to showcase the challenges that law enforcement had when working on the case, primarily…no one ventures out to the “Killing Fields”.
But it’s also a personal film as screenwriter, Don Ferrarone was working for the Drug Enforcement Agency and since retiring back in 1997, he was intrigued by the anger towards law authorities that this highly-publicized case has gone unsolved. But even both Ferrarone and even director Ami Canaan Mann both know, the making of “Texas Killing Fields” was difficult knowing that the murders are unsolved and how can you make a film where the criminal have not been caught yet?
And this is possibly the weakness of the entire film. While the film is quite effective in showcasing the town as troubled, characters that live in a certain part of town as troubled, it also is quite effective in showing us the darker side of the film… near-abductions or murders, creepy vibe when seeing how the bodies were found to the jarring sound of a women who were attacked or prior to them being murdered…the film was able to convey the feeling of dire, fear, sadness, anger in that regard. But unfortunately the film lacked connection. Who are the suspects? Why are they suspects? Who are these characters who may have known the subjects? Why are they helping them? What clues have been found?
The main challenge that we are presented is that the murdered bodies are found in a place called “The Killing Fields” that people don’t go to.
The film also leads us to believe that an officer is willing to take on murderers on their own without backup. This is not an action film ala “Die Hard” or a film where one cop can take on a group of murderers. Police procedure seemed to go out the window during those scenes.
But nevertheless, I did enjoy some parts of the film and it was obvious from listening to the audio commentary by Ami Canaan Mann and Don Ferrarone that this film was a challenge. It’s not an easy film to do, because the murders are still unsolved to this day. Granted, because no individual case is focused on, Ferrarone can at least give one plot resolution but making sure people know that the “Texas Killing Fields” is a film like real-life is unresolved. It may leave a bittersweet taste in your mouth but imagine how law authorities and most importantly, the families have felt for so long and not having any closure.
As for the acting, “Texas Killing Fields” does feature a few solid performances. First, it’s great to see Jessica Chastain continue in showing us that she can take on whichever character role that she is playing. From the sad mother in “Tree of Life”, the crying and lonely wife in “The Help” and now a butt-kicking detective in “Texas Killing Fields”, she can do it all!
Sam Worthington shows us he can be the stoic, angry detective in “Texas Killing Fields” and obviously something much different since the first “Avatar” film and Jeffrey Dean Morgan also does a good job in playing the concerned detective, but with uneven pacing and a screenplay which could have been better, the “Texas Killing Fields” was an OK film.
As for the Blu-ray release, there were some scenes that looked good…especially the outdoor scenes. But there were some scenes, especially with darker levels that didn’t come out too well and noticed some banding issues. As for special features, you do get a single audio commentary.
Overall, “Texas Killing Fields” was indeed a difficult film for both Ami Canaan Mann and Don Ferrarone. The subject manner was not easy since the cases were unsolved, families of the murdered victims which the filmmakers would at least have talked to them in order to showcase the grieving family element but if anything, while the film may not be the greatest crime film, one can only hope that the film has generated interest in allowing these cold cases to be solved.
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