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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Harvest of Fear (2005)


One of the things I enjoy about my "What Movie Wednesday" series is that I can get my readers involved in the content of this site by telling me what movie to watch and review.  Another thing I like is the spontaneous nature of it- I never know what to expect from the voting, or the movie either.

Such was the voting yesterday.  It was actually pretty close between the three movies- I was almost afraid there'd be a three-way tie, to be honest.  Fortunately, there was a winner- "Harvest of Fear".

Medical intern Billy McKinley has arrived at Devil's Lake at the wrong time.  Someone has started killing off teens attending the Harvest Festival- mimicking a series of killings from twenty years before.  Is it the same killer, or has Billy gotten dragged into something much darker?

There are some pretty decent things in this movie- and some not so decent things too.  I will admit that the premise is a little cliched, but still capable of providing a decent skeleton for the story.  Provided, the story had enough flesh to hide the cliche, which unfortunately, the storyline here was rather skinny in that regard.  There are four plot lines that could've worked well together, but didn't connect properly:
  1. The police investigation into the killings;
  2. Billy and Stacey's relationship as they investigate the killings;
  3. Jake and Stacey's relationship and how it could relate to the killings;
  4. The group of teens that are being killed off.
These four plots are treated almost completely seperately- with only a couple of soft bumps against each other.  I think the story would've felt more complete if all four had been entwined and connected a bit more- would've provided more material for character development, suspense, and probably added more to the ending.  There was some interesting ideas introduced that could've served as suitable plot twists, but none were followed up properly or presented well.

This brings us to the characters involved.  They felt almost like cookie cutter characters you'd find in any Mainstream Hollywood horror franchise... and just as cliched.  Of the characters, the only ones I liked were Stacey, and  Old Man Carter.  Of the characters, they're also the ones with the most actual development- though Old Man Carter was a stereotypical Hillbilly Who Knows All That Goes On In Town type character.  Bill McKinley was supposed to be charming, but I found him slimey from the start.  Jake was a douche, and Dr. Carpenter was a jerk.  I felt sorry for the teens, because they seemed only to have been introduced to provide fodder for the killer.

Since we're talking about the characters, we have to discuss the acting of them.  The best of the lot, as the stereotypical Hillbilly, Old Man Carter, was Tobias Anderson.  I absolutely loved his almost biblical portrayal of his character- as if he was Moses speaking from the mountain.  A close second for performance was Carrie Finklea as Stacey Rogers.  I came to like and care about her character, and enjoyed the strength she brought to it as well.  I would be interested to see other films with these two in them.

The rest of the cast however, was fairly lackluster.  The worst in my opinion was Ryan Deal, playing Billy McKinley.  He just couldn't get me to like the character at the beginning of the movie.  Since I didn't like him to begin with, the "twist" at the end lost a lot of its punch.  Justin Ament as Jake Barker- one of the deputies, was annoying and constantly had a dopey look on his face... even when he was trying to look tough and mean.  He reminded me of so many of the dumb jocks who used to bully me growing up.  I liked the way Don Alder LOOKED as Sheriff John Roberts, but found his acting a little lifeless.  I know Thomas Nabhan's character, Dr. Carpenter, was SUPPOSED to be a bit of a jerk, but I found his performance a little forced and hard to tolerate.  As for the people playing the teens getting killed?  Decent enough for characters there just to get killed.

And the killer himself?  Depsite wearing a mask that looks like it's made from human flesh, I found it hard to feel intimidated by him.

And speaking of kills, I was rather disappointed in the kills in this movie.  I'm aware that "Harvest of Fear" was filmed on a low budget, but they could've spared more cash for the blood.  I was hoping for some nice splash and spray from a guy who looks like he's wearing a mask made from human flesh, but got mostly dribble and drabble.  There IS one scene though with some decent splatter.  It's the scene where the goth costumed girl and her boyfriend are in the woods having a bit of pot and the killer gets her.  The pitchfork scene was a nice concept that would've been impressive with more blood and grue.  But two decent kills out of nine or ten is less than stellar.

I did like the camera work though.  There was some decent sequences in this film that look really good.  One sequence I thought looked decent was the green hallway kill.  I liked the green lighting, the off kilter framing, and the the distant shot of the killer.  If only the same sort of care and skill had been put into the blood effects, and I would've been happier.

The combination of the cliches, lost story opportunities, uninteresting characters, sub-par acting, less than intimidating killer, and low grue content, the positives brought by the decent camera work are so over ridden that "Harvest of Fear" sits solidly in "The Ugly"

Special Shoutout:

I want to thank everyone that participated in my "What Movie Wednesday" feature.  I'll be doing it again March 21th.

Big thank you to the following people who voted for "Harvest of Fear":


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