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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New on Video: A House of Horror in The Harvest

Posted By on Wed, Aug 26, 2015 at 1:00 PM


In the early 1990s, I prided myself on watching "edgy" films. It helped that I had relatively easy access to them, working in a video store, though my first girlfriend and I were proud to see The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover in the theater. (Even better, we were alone, both underage, and got in free because I knew the manager.)

But most transgressive films never made it to larger screens in Fresno, so it was on VHS that I originally saw John McNaughton's notorious Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. It helped that I'd heard that the film was intense without being overly gory, since I've never been a gore-hound, and that while it was plenty violent, it was the film's tone that was the most disturbing. And while his career has been sporadic since then, Shout! Factory is releasing his latest film, The Harvest, on Blu-ray on September 1.

I followed McNaughton's career with interest for the next few years, including 1991's sci-fi horror film The Borrower and the Eric Bogosian concert film Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, the 1993 comedy Mad Dog and Glory (a film I loved, and a LaserDisc I watched many, many times), and up through 1996's crime drama Normal Life (in which Ashley Judd has bleached-blond hair — so, win). I've never seen what is still his most critically acclaimed film, the 1998 Wild Things, because I was and remain seriously off-put by the emphasis in the promotion of Neve Campbell and Denise Richards in bikinis. By all accounts it's actually a very good film which isn't just about the T&A, but I just can't bring myself to watch movies which use bikini-babes for their advertising. I'm very fond of Neve Campbell, but seeing her reduced to whack-off material is insulting.

Anyway, McNaughton's mostly done the occasional television gig since the early 2000s, and beyond an episode of Masters of Horror, nothing that's taken him back to his psychological horror roots, at least not until The Harvest.

Though never as grueling as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, it's a similarly lo-fi, lacking special effects or any supernatural elements. Storywise, young orphan Maryann (Natasha Callis) moves in with her grandparents in the boondocks, and she soon makes the acquaintance of a sick, wheelchair-bound boy named Andy (Charlie Tahan). His creepy parents Katherine (Samantha Morton) and Richard (Michael Shannon) disapprove of their friendship, however, and Maryann soon discovers they have a secret in their basement. The title gives a hint of where the movie goes, and I'll also say that it would make an interesting double-feature with Billy Senese's recent Closer to God.

But what matters most is that in many of The Harvest's pivotal scenes, Natasha Callis (and let's just consider for the moment that the film's hero is a non-sexualized teenage girl) is wearing my scarf! I totally have that one, and it looks better on her than it does on me, but that's no great shock.


But there are some pretty decent shocks to be found in The Harvest, and it's good to have John McNaughton back in his old field.
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Sherilyn Connelly


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