THE HARVEST (2015)
Label: Scream Factory, IFC Midnight
Region Code: A
Duration: 104 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen
Director: John McNaughton
Cast: Peter Fonda, Michael Shannon, Natasha Calis, Charlie Tahan, Samantha Morton, Leslie Lyles, Meadow Williams
Director John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) is back with a new reality-based thriller concerning Maryann (Natasha Calis), a young girl who moves in with her grandparents (Peter Fonda, Leslie Lyles) following the death of her parents. She befriends a terminally-ill young boy nxt door named Andy (Charlie Tahan) who is home-schooled by his mother, a doctor named Catherine (Samantha Morton), and his stay-at-home father Richard (Michael Shannon).
Andy's mobility is restricted and can only get around via a wheelchair, not having the use of his legs, and spends most f his time in his bed playing XBOX for the most part. Once young Maryann arrives on scene he now has an XBOX partner and his demeanor begins to change for the better, the two become fast friends much to the disappointment of his insanely overprotective mother, who only tolerates Maryann's intrusions for a short time before banning the young woman from her home altogether. The two kids just cannot be separated though, and they two remain friends through secretive meet-ups when his parents are not at home. .
What will strike you right away is how unraveled his mother Catherine becomes once Maryann shows up at the house, she begins to act erratically, taking her frustration out on poor Andy and her subdued husband, the guy played by Shannon seems kind hearted enough but he is brow-beaten by his overly aggressive wife who dominates him and Andy at home, and the death-glare she gives young Maryann is scary stuff. Poor Richard is more sympathetic towards Andy and his new found friend, allowing her to come into the home against Catherine's wishes, which only further angers her, causing her to act more erratic and violently.
Maryann begins to investigate the family knowing that something is rotten in the house and soon she discovers a dark secretly kept away in the basement, something Andy has no knowledge of. Without giving too much away what she finds is pretty damning, she takes to the Internet to dig deeper and what she discovers is startling stuff involving a missing child, when she brings it to the attention of her grandfather he simply shrugs it off as a work of fiction from her own imagination, something spurred by her inability to play with her new found friend, which as a viewer I always find frustrating, that cinematic cliche of adults not believing anything a kid has to say, no matter how detailed and informed they may seem to be, I hate it. What transpires afterward is sort of insane and more than a little bit chilling, and finally quickens the pulse of a film that for too long runs cold for far too long, so I think that this one might fail to find a wider audience, but for those who don't mind a slow-burner of a thriller there's a lot to enjoy enjoy here, and Morton's over-the-top performance is a fun watch.
The Harvest has haunted me for a few days now, as these more reality-based horror movies tend to do, with a supernatural or more over-driven horror film I can dismiss it outright, they're too fantastic to be believed, but with these 'neighbor's next door with dark secrets' type of thrillers there's always a layer of diabolical plausibility that weighs on my afterward, for what might be going on behind the closed doors next door is more frightening than any ghost or masked murderer in my opinion. Add to that a what-would-you-do in that situation as a parent scenario, and you have an emotionally charged thriller with more than one dimension. Great to see McNaughton back in the director's chair for a feature length film after a fifteen year absence, this slow-burner might not set the world on fire but it is a tense and atmospheric movie with a top-notch cast and definitely worth a watch. 2.5/5
- Audio Commentary with director John McNaughton and producer Steven A. Jones
- Theatrical Trailer