The director of 30 Days of Night returns to the genre with a mix between Hungry Eyes and The Purge.
One of the unexpected surprises of this year of horror was the premiere on Amazon Prime Video of the film Dark Harvest, David Slade’s long-awaited return to genre cinema after directing many episodes of powerful series like Hannibal. Now he’s back to apply his stylized look once again, invoking Stephen King in a fascinating rockabilly-horror fantasy that proposes a teenage survival game with monsters.
During Halloween in a town trapped between the 1950s and 1960s, a group of young people must hunt down a being called Sawtooth Jack to prevent calamity from being unleashed on the town in the years to come. An almost dystopian starting point that is based on a variation of The Lottery, a short story by Shirley Jackson, in which teenagers are sacrificed in the style of King’s The Long March, only in this case, death comes from the danger of facing this pumpkin-headed creature.
The film faced some serious production issues that delayed its release after a pandemic shoot, which left a mark on the editing, but these are inconsistencies that don’t stop Dark Harvest from remaining a true and fabulous rarity in today’s horror landscape, a radical premise that tells a great American tragedy of parents sacrificing progress and the seeds of the next generation. In it, Slade proves he’s still one of the most visually compelling directors, with Larry Smith’s blueish, glow-in-the-dark cinematography.
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Plus, throughout its central core, there’s no shortage of blood in some of the most impressive and well-executed kills in horror cinema this year. However, it is not a slasher, and the most violent part is not the heart of the story. The third act delves deeper into the city’s secret, the monster and the protagonist’s relationship with the conspiracy, leading to a bitter anticlimax, but very coherent with the previous dark atmosphere, which leads to an unexpected and heavy ending that lasts until the final credits. .
Dark Harvest is set in a world of its own, in which it seems that Battle Royale and Dark Harvest emerged alongside the juvenile melodrama of Coppola’s rebel films, the gangs of The Wanderers and Ray Bradbury’s stories about the dead of night. The boys wear Misfits mascot masks as the Damned, Eddie Cochran and ’50s classics play, providing the energy for their story of youthful rebellion in a microcosm that reflects the patriarchal and racist ideal of post-war America, within a culture of fear that seeks to perpetuate a closed system.
The annual festival utilizes and motivates the people’s children as it calls upon them to fight for the country, with promises and rewards that tap into the instincts and manipulable minds of adolescence. It’s shocking to see a film these days where girls are unjustifiably relegated, but it all fits into a society that looks to a tradition that has been real. The only girl who participates has to do so in secret, and she is also the victim of a segregation that is only slightly highlighted. There is no need to explain much in this world fueled by testosterone and acne.
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A future Halloween classic
Thus, Dark Harvest works as a small fable that reinterprets the pillars of North American culture, from jackets to the tradition of taking candy – in a very macabre variation – driving large American cars, as in Christine, by King and Carpenter . On the other hand, the monster is a new recreation of the classic pumpkin-headed man who haunts Halloween nights, which has already had variations such as Pumpkinhead (1988) or Sam from Halloween Tales (2007), although there is also something of legend of the scarecrow Harold from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Recovering the tradition of genuinely American folklore, related to harvests, secret rituals and grotesque traditions that are swallowed without question, this rarity seems alien to fashions and connects to a kind of forgotten horror film with monsters and sacrificed children reminiscent of Hungry Eyes 2 , without renouncing the paraphernalia and ghostly moments (the barn scene). But despite this, he may be underestimated for his irregularities.
However, in a Halloween month where the most popular genre releases in theaters were Saw if it were just another Sixteen Knives or Deadly Conference, when, in reality, Dark Harvest is one of those films destined, if not to have an instant cult following, to become a mandatory film for the Halloween marathons, to which this year owes be added the also snubbed TOC TOC TOC – Ecos do Além.
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