Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Harvest Lake" Review

"Harvest Lake"

Four twentysomethings head to a cabin on a secluded lake to drink, smoke weed, and fuck. You've heard this basic set-up about a million different times in a million different horror films before, right? Well, friends, this is where the similarities from all of those generic slasher films of days past end. "Harvest Lake" is an entirely different animal.
Director Scott Schirmer ("Found"), brings together most of the talent from last year's "The Legend of Wasco" into what amounts to a creative masterpiece of indie cinema. A ferociously original script coupled with stunning cinematography, truly surreal set-pieces, a brilliant tension building sound design, and a cast delivering career defining performances elevate "Harvest Lake" head and shoulders above 99% of the current crop of modestly budgeted features.
After a disturbing opening sequence, the four friends in question, Ellie Church ("Time To Kill"), Tristan Risk ("Innsmouth"), Jason Crowe ("Easter Casket"), and Dan Nye ("The Legend of Wasco") arrive at the lake house to celebrate Josh's (Nye) birthday, and after a quick dip in the lake, things start to get weird. Like, really weird. The arrival of random camper Mark (Kevin Roach) adds another piece of the puzzle as the hallucinations, paranoia, amped up sexuality, and psychic ramblings begin to eat away at the party atmosphere.
"Harvest Lake" draws from some very lofty influences in that it combines equal parts of Cronenberg's "body horror" phase (think "Shivers" in the woods), Kubrick-esque tension, several Lovecraft elements (fear of the unknown, ancient aquatic beings, madness, and, yes...tentacles.), and lush dreamscapes reminiscent of Harvey's "Carnival of Souls". Heady stuff indeed, yet, Schirmer's script keeps the "cheese factor" at bay by not allowing the nudity and sexuality to creep into "exploitation" territory (and there's TONS of potential for gratuitous nudity here kids), and, when not keeping the entities involved in the ambiguous shadows, utilizing some truly exceptionally well done creature effects (old school bladder effects FTW!) to get the point across. That's not to say that some of the plot points aren't left enough in the dark to challenge the viewer into "filling in the blanks" so to speak, that is definitely the case here, but this is "thinking man's horror", and thank fuck for that, we need more films like this!
All of the above is meaningless, however, without talent on both sides of the camera. Brian Williams' camera work immerses the viewer into the world of "Harvest Lake" making the titular body of water and the woods surrounding it (as well as the denizens contained therein) vital characters in this twisted tale. Jason Crowe, already known as a capable actor, delivers an amazing, fearless performance here, Tristan Risk (one of the most attractive humans on the planet, as I often point out) chews up every scene she's in with a subtle vulnerability that evolves into raw sexuality as the story progresses, Ellie Church is completely fucking chilling in the last half of the film, and both Nye and Roach seem to revel in the miasma of terrifying situations their characters are thrown into. A nearly perfect ensemble performance.
"Harvest Lake" is one of those rare films that will find an audience if enough people "get it", and here's hoping it tears it up on the festival circuit, because everyone involved in this film deserves a pile of awards, trophies, certificates, free drinks, sexual favors, tee shirts, hand shakes and back pats that the indie horror scene can muster. This, friends, is the type of film and talent that deserves your support.
10/10--Scream King Tom