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By Merle Bertrand | April 13, 1998

Ho hum. Another psychodrama about people with something to hide, revealed to us via that most tediously overused technique in indie film; the quick-cut, strobey flashback sequence.
During an intense midwestern thunderstorm, a mentally disturbed Irma loses her marbles and blows away her daughter Sally with a shotgun. So her only slightly less insane husband and son do the most logical thing they can think of. They bury Sally in the woods, drive her car into a swamp, and go on as if nothing ever happened.
The plan unravels when Jenny, an attractive college student from California allegedly doing research on the “typical American family,” comes calling. When a tornado forces her to spend the night, she’s soon coerced into pretending to be Sally for Irma’s benefit. When a geeky local Sheriff’s Deputy starts snooping around the place asking about both Sally and warning of a murder suspect who fits Jenny’s description, it provides added incentive for Jenny to play along with the cover-up. With neither Jenny nor the family quite trusting the other, the lines nonetheless become quickly blurred between reality and the multiple charades everyone plays, until everyone’s past and present collide.
At a too-long 100 minutes, “The Farmhouse” plods along like the talky play it originally was. Still, aside from a slow start and the plausibility challenges set up by the premise, Marcus Spiegal’s drama gathers steam and saves itself with a taut, suspense-filled ending.

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