A Life on the Farm Image

A Life on the Farm

By Benjamin Franz | November 9, 2023

AWARD THIS! 2023 NOMINEE! The subgenre of horror-comedy exists in documentaries as well as in fictional cinema. For documentaries, the filmmaker presents a true story that is off-kilter and surreal. It has moments of terror that sometimes provide belly laughs from the sheer ridiculousness or audacity of the event being screened. Unfortunately, in my estimation, it’s not nearly as commonplace as it should be, though American Movie and Grey Gardens are classic examples of the format. Now, along comes director Oscar Harding, who has crafted a truly great documentary/horror-comedy, A Life on the Farm.

Unlike the other two titles, Harding’s flick is based on found footage. Found footage is where there is video, and a filmmaker repurposes that footage to their own, sometimes glorious, ends. In this case, the videotape is that of Charles Carson’s movie introducing people to his farm. The video footage is demented, hysterically funny, and supremely dark. In presenting Carson’s antics and dissecting his style as a presenter, A Life on the Farm provides a horror-tinged giggle fest.

Aside from directing, Harding serves as our main focal point for the context of Charles Carson’s miscreant adventures on his Coombe-end Farm footage. Apparently, Harding watched half of this film when he was 10 years old. Now, a decade later, he completed his first viewing of the eccentric farmer’s movie. That Carson was a neighbor of Harding’s grandfather is just delicious.

“…Charles Carson’s movie introducing people to his farm.”

Of the more grisly and sepulchral humor would be the moments where Carson introduces us to his deceased and seemingly still-life dolls for parents. Stan and Millie Carson look positively ancient and nearly as wrinkled as the Crypt Keeper. The adoration he pours upon both of them in their respective photo montages is both touching and creepy. I simply loved the darkness imbuing these scenes. Combined with the footage of a cow birthing twins and a funeral for a 6-year-old cat, this is simply fantastic rustic footage.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the interviews. A selection of found footage curators, an undertaker, a psychiatrist, and several of Charles Carson’s neighbors and friends are extensively interviewed over the 75-minute runtime. The context they provide is invaluable. I especially enjoyed the conversations provided by Carson’s friends and neighbors in the village of Huish Champflower and its neighboring parish of Wiveliscombe. There’s an earthy, country sensibility to these talks, which partner quite well with Mr. Carson’s archival footage.

To recap, A Life on the Farm is a grisly, morbid, hilarious snapshot of a man capturing his life on the farm his mother bought some 50 years prior. Coombe-End farm in Huish Champflower is a delightfully demented and bucolic locale. I lack the words to praise this documentary enough. I recommend you find this wherever it’s playing, bring your favorite cardboard skeleton, and have yourself a riotous good time. This is a film for absolutely everyone. After all, Carson has something to show you.

A Life on the Farm is a 2023 Award This! Unreal Outsider Documentary nominee.

A Life on the Farm (2022)

Directed and Written: Oscar Harding

Starring: Charles Carson, Oscar Harding, Karen Kilgariff, Thomas Lynch, Derrick BecklesLehr Beidelschies, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

A Life on the Farm Image

"…a film for absolutely everyone."

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