Based on a real-life string of murders that spanned 28 years and were all perpetrated along Interstate 45 – or I.45 as it’s known – Ami Canaan Mann’s Texas Killing Fields is a broody crime-thriller about two Texas City cops, a troubled little girl, and a spooky bayou in South Texas. A “bayou” is a stagnant stretch of swamp or marshland that lazily swallows up anything you may choose to dump there – like, say, the mutilated bodies of young girls or women.
This seedy bayou has been “infected” with evil ever since Native Americans, forced to live there by white settlers, turned to cannibalism. Locals refer to it as “the killing fields”. In light of a recent homicide, Detectives Souder (Sam Worthington) and Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) find themselves drawn deeper and deeper South, despite the fact that “the killing fields” are outside their jurisdiction. This has something to do with the fact that Pam (Jessica Chastain), the detective who is responsible for the swampy terrain, is Souder’s ex-wife.
It is inevitable that the three detectives will end up working together to solve the string of murders and catch the serial killer (or killers), particularly when Heigh takes Little Ann Sliger (the exceptionally versatile Chloë Grace Moretz) under his paternal wing. Ann, a preteen waif with sad myopic eyes and a trailer-trash mother (Sheryl Lee), seems set to become the next victim. When she is seen wandering home alone past the killing fields, Don Ferrarone’s screenplay effectively amps up a notch.
The extensive research that went into making this film doesn’t always come across in its disjointed narrative, which contains multiple complex threads but fails to provide much context into the matter-of-fact case. It’s not as grisly as the title suggests. As for gravitas, well, it has that in spades. However, the distinct lack of humour may load these spades rather heavily for some.
Shot in Louisianaand set to a moody electronic score by ex-Tindersticks
guitarist violinist Dickon Hinchliffe, Texas Killing Fields is an atmospheric and absorbing film that doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel but still keeps you engrossed in how it will go round this time.
Texas Killing Fields arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in Australia on February 2, 2012.