Sunday, October 16, 2016

Halloween Movie Review #16: "The Harvest" (2013)

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Movie"The Harvest"
Director: John McNaughton
Year: 2013
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Andy Young (Charlie Tahan) is very sick and is bound to a wheelchair most of the time. He is home-schooled and has no friends, only ever spending time with his parents Dr. Katherine Young (Samantha Morton) and Richard Young (Michael Shannon). When a girl named Maryann (Natasha Calis), who recently lost her parents, moves to a nearby home to live with her grandparents, she attempts to befriend Andy, but Dr. Young isn't too pleased about this and doesn't want Maryann around her son. Maryann starts to think everything is not as it seems with Andy's parents and tries to figure out why his mom won't ever let him play.

"The Harvest" is directed by John McNaughton, who is known previously for his true life horror film "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer." It is written by first time screenwriter Stephan Lancellotti. It stars Samantha Morton as Dr. Katherine Young, Michael Shannon as her husband Richard, Charlie Tahan as their chronically ill son Andy, and Natasha Calis as Maryann, the new girl next door who just wants to be Andy's friend. Dr. Young seems like a very controlling and overprotective mother, so she doesn't like Maryann coming around the house uninvited. Neither Maryann nor Andy really understand why she's so mean about Andy having friends, so Maryann and Andy defy Dr. Young's wishes as they start to secretly see each other. Maryann even goes so far as to bring Andy outside to play catch, something that hasn't happened in a very long time. Meanwhile, Andy's mother starts to become increasingly unstable, and the angrier she gets, the more she abuses her son. When she discovers Andy has been lying to her, she flips out completely, tearing his room apart, breaking his TV, taking away his toys, etc. When Maryann discovers the truth about Andy's mom, she tries to tell her grandparents, but unfortunately, they will not listen and she is forced to take drastic measures to ensure her friend is out of harm's way.

This dramatic horror/thriller takes a while to get going, and are first, we were a little nervous "The Harvest" was going to be a boring slog. It has a very slow build-up to its more frightening elements. The beginning feels a lot like an inspirational drama or a film about an unlikely friendship. Maryann just lost her parents, Andy is sick and confined to a wheelchair, neither of them had a friend until they found each other, all the while, his weird, controlling doctor mom and semi-absent father are there lurking in the shadows, not allowing Andy to have a life outside of their control. This is what makes it a psychological horror/thriller in that it doesn't use gore or violence to produce its frights. The scares come from the odd behavior of Andy's parents. The tension slowly mounts as it all moves along ever so slowly and then BAM, it reaches its ultimate height at the film's climax. Most the unnerving elements come from Samantha Morton and her seemingly irrational behavior as Dr. Young. What first seems like overprotecting moves quickly into controlling territory, then abusive territory, and finally, batshit crazy territory. Her husband Richard is the far more subdued of the two. Though complicit in Dr. Young's actions, Richard seems to be a far less willing participant, and Michael Shannon displays this more conflicted role with all of the emotions and behaviors that come along with it extremely convincingly. Shannon has become a favorite of ours over the years, and there's really nothing he can't do.

What starts off slow ends with a bang, and even though we knew what was up after a short time, "The Harvest" may surprise you if you let it. Some of the technical aspects of the film are a little rudimentary, especially the fade edits which just don't flow all that well or even all that naturally, though this is a minor complaint and only most noticeable during the slower early portion of the film. As long as you can stick out the mundane beginning, the twists and turns start to get revealed and the payoff is well worth it.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 63%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
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One year ago, we were being scared by: "Hellraiser"

Two years ago, we were being scared by: "Rosemary's Baby"

Three years ago, we were being scared by: "Pieces"

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