Rows is a psychological thriller, a Gothic fantasy inspired by Grimm’s tales. A young woman, Rose, is tasked by her developer father to deliver an eviction notice to a reclusive woman in a ramshackle farmhouse. The woman has strange powers, derived from the house itself. The enchantress puts Rose and her friend, Greta, under a spell. They become lost in a seemingly infinite cornfield and must repeat a series of surreal or terrifying events in order to solve the mystery and break the spell. Rose’s father is drawn into the mystery, and Rose’s relationship with him is tested. A series of shocking reversals leads to a haunting climax.
Many low budget horror flicks are set in the woods. The location is easily attainable. Most wooded areas aren’t privately owned and are open for the public to use as they please. It’s a place to get away from the disturbances of normal urban areas. It can also give a sense of disorientation as everything looks similar. The landscape varies slightly, but the woods are always going to look like a bunch of trees. These reasons make the woods a perfect setting for a horror filmmaker who simply wants to make a movie.
Rows had a similar feel, though the location was not the woods. Rows was a 2015 movie about Rose (Hannah Schick) and her friend Greta (Lauren Lakis) who went to a soon to be demolished house looking for valuables that were still inside. While there, they ended up murdering the woman who used to live there. They buried her body in a cornfield and discovered that some mystical force was trapping them there. The journey to escape took many weird turns.
It is going to be easiest if I share this detail before anything else in this review. Rows confused the living heck out of me. It was extremely difficult to follow. When I thought I had a handle on the movie, it would take a left turn and lose me. There were multiple timelines crisscrossing with one another in ways that made little sense. Characters changed in drastic ways from scene to scene, which felt unnatural. That may have been the intention, but it muddled up the final product. Everything became foggier rather than clear and concise.
Adding to this confusion was the cornfield. Though this idea of a never-ending location of the same visuals is tired and played out, it was semi-refreshing to see the slight variation of corn. The corn also played into the story as Rose used the kernels in a Hansel and Gretel type way, leaving a path behind her to know where she had already been. Though a nifty idea, it didn’t add much to Rows and didn’t elevate it beyond the simplicity of the location.
The acting was a mixed bag. Lauren Lakis was a great supporting performance, able to turn from a light, persuasive friend to a menacing villainous force. Her presence kept the movie from being unwatchable. She outshined the lead actress. Hannah Schick was not captivating. Though her character’s name was Rose and the movie was Rows, that’s about as interesting as she got. She was the heroine of the story. She was supposed to be the character struggling to conquer the trouble. The audience should feel that struggle. They should feel the pain and anguish. Some of that come through. Most of it felt slightly off. There was something missing. She didn’t bring anything to the role. She played the character. She didn’t become the character.
This is not to say that the characters were ever stable enough for the actors to become. The story involved Rose experiencing the same day multiple times. Certain characters changed their personalities depending on which iteration of the day it was. There was no reasoning behind the character changes other than to move the plot forward. They didn’t believably change. Nothing built up these changes. They were sudden. It was off-putting.
There isn’t a whole lot more to say about Rows. It was a messy movie that never made sense. The confusion I experienced weakened it. The story wasn’t visualized well enough to follow. The characters would change personalities like they were changing clothes. Even the cornfield, which was a nice variation on the forest setting, couldn’t be interesting enough as a location. I went into the movie hoping for the best and got a nearly incomprehensible mess. There’s not much more to it than that.