Maryann (an impressive Natasha Calis, The Possession) moves in with her grandparents after she's orphaned. Desperately lonely, the preteen sets out to befriend a deathly ill, bed-ridden boy (Charlie Tahan, Gotham), despite the outright disapproval of his mother (Samantha Morton, Minority Report, Sweet and Lowdown). Maryann's persistence pays off, however, and during a series of secret visits she gradually uncovers some seriously sinister goings-on in the house...
In the film, THE HARVEST, teenager Andy Young, is a boy who doesn't get out of his house much. He is sometimes wheelchair bound, but often, a serious illness keeps him bedridden. So with the world moving along outside without him, the only thing that Andy can really do to entertain himself is to play video games, and watch the corn stalks grow, which are located outside his window. The only contact he has with other people are his parents, Katharine, a Doctor, and his Father, Richard, who keep a close eye on him, as they administer his care, and everyday schooling. However, Andy's world of seclusion, as he knows it soon changes with the arrival of a new neighbor. Maryann, a girl who is relatively around the same age as Andy has just moved in with her grandparents next door, after recently being orphaned. Maryann, who has just found herself in a strange new place, has no friends, and like Andy, no one to communicate with. who is around her same age. So, when Maryann has a chance meeting with the boy next door, the two of them soon become good friends. And for them, it is all innocent fun, as they play video games. However, Andy's overprotective mother doesn't quite see it that way. She believes that Andy's new friendship is getting in the way of his care, and thus prohibits Andy and Maryann from seeing one another. However, as kids often do, they do not listen, and soon, Maryann meets up with her friend, for a game of catch outside. But not before Katharine nearly catches the two, after arriving home unexpectedly. In a panic, Maryann hurries Andy back inside, and rushes to hide, to avoid being caught. In an attempt to escape, she somehow ends up in the Young's basement, and what she finds there, is quite startling to her. It is evidence of a deep dark, and calculated secret, which Andy's parents have kept hidden for years. With the secret now uncovered, Maryann, must convince both her grandparents, and Andy, that what she saw is real, before it's too late. However with Andy's parents displaying such strange behavior, behavior that only seems to get more erratic by the minute, doing so might prove to be a difficult task. One that could even be deadly.
With THE HARVEST, Director John McNaughton returns to us after a 15 year hiatus from making features, the kind of layoff that could make even the most seasoned of filmmakers a little "rusty" to say the least. And seeing as he is the man, behind the 1985 film, HENRY : A PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, which many consider, one of the all-time Horror classics(myself included), his return to Horror, is one surely met with some high expectations. The question going into THE HARVEST for many will be, "will this film be of the same quality that Mcnaughton has sometimes been known for?" This was certainly my question going in.
So, what's the verdict, you ask? Does this film pan out? Fortunately, the answer is yes. Although this film, which stars Samantha Morton and Michael Shannon, has just recently, and quietly came under many people's radar, this is a film that, although, somewhat low budget, has a surprising amount of depth. Like HENRY : PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER before it, the story has a nice build to it, with characters who equally keep our interest. The film begins as a peaceful snapshot of an ill boy, who has parents who want nothing but the best for him, as they tend to him, and care for him daily. They are very much stuck in their ways - their routine. So, when the new girl, Maryann, moves in next door, although she does nothing wrong, she messes up the constant familiarity of the Youngs' everyday life. While Andy welcomes it, and wants a new friend, his parents, especially, the Mother, Katharine, for some reason feels threatened by her arrival. after a series of events, all involving Maryann, Katharine behavior begins to worsen, suggesting that she has a mental state that she merely conceals. The frustration just brings to the surface, what has been there all along. We know that it isn't long before we see Katharine go "full bore", if you will. But of course that all comes out when, Maryann pulls the lid off of a deep, and terrible secret that the Youngs are keeping in their basement, this of course, that is when all hell breaks loose. Being a reviewer of film is difficult sometimes for a lot of different reason, but to me, the most difficult thing when it comes to writing up reviews, is simply trying to avoid any kind of spoilers. I absolutely hate to spoil things about movies that people have yet that see, because sometimes there are films that rely so much on their mystery. Most of the time, the mystery regarding the certain aspects of a film, is the best part. Which is certainly the case when it comes to THE HARVEST. So, instead of giving the story's twists, turns, and latter developments away here, I will just say that the latter portion of the film definitely packs a solid punch that develops nicely, and comes down fast, culminating in a twist ending that you hopefully will not see coming. I know personally that I didn't exactly put it all together until it smacked me in the face. I left the film thinking that it's conclusion was both. crafty, and clever. I was pleased.
But, while the story itself is great in its own right, what truly seals the deal here. are the performances by the cast all around. Everyone involved in THE HARVEST are just great. I liked everyone. First, I have to say that Actress Samantha Morton, as the Mother, Katharine, is just amazing here. In this film, she goes from calm to batshit crazy in a matter of seconds, it's insane, but most frightening of all, it's believable. Morton steals a big chunk of the show with her excellent performance. She deserves an award for her performance here, plain and simple! Completing the film's parenting duo called "the Youngs", is veteran character Actor Michael Shannon. His "Richard" character initially is awkward and quirky, as well, but, there is a time where the viewer gets a sense of unwillingness, that says he might not entirely agree with the actions of the wife. Morton and Shannon, work well together to to create an odd pairing, which is ideal, seeing as these parents are indeed just that. And speaking of pairings, the pair that keeps the film going, and together, are of course, "Andy" and "Maryann". The two new friends are the core of THE HARVEST, and portraying the two are, Charlie Tahan, and Natasha Calis respectively. Both do a great job with their performances, as they are also very believable. Both Tahan and Calis quickly create a friendly bond between the characters, we both like and believe. However, on an individual level, one must give Calis extra credit as her performance is the one that truly connects with us. A job well done. But with that said, again, everyone does great.
Although it has been awhile since McNaughton has Directed a feature length Horror film(his last Horror themed subject being an episode of MASTERS OF HORROR - which, of course, doesn't count), the Director hasn't lost his touch. THE HARVEST is proof of that. The film is a nice look at the Horrors that sometimes dwell within the friendly facade that is Suburbia. Not all families are picturesque, and not all parents do what's best for their children. THE HARVEST is proof, as it delivers both it's characters, and story in a way that is more realistic than fictitious. All in all, it is a solid comeback for the veteran Director.
As for the film's presentation on Blu-Ray, the film looks beautiful, and sounds great too! The colors pop, and the image is very crisp. I would definitely recommend seing this one in high definition.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
I really enjoyed THE HARVEST, despite not knowing what to expect going into it. Both the film's story, as well as its characters progresses into something truly worth while. AS someone who is both disabled and wheelchair bound myself, I could relate to the character's everyday struggle. Being stuck in the house, and having your friends come to you can be tough, so I could relate to this, as well as Maryann, being a good friend to Andy. Also, the Horror aspect of the film brought about a certain level of unpredictability, that in turn makes this one that much more believable in the end. As mentioned, this is Director John McNaughton's return to Horror features, and I have to say that it is a most impressive return, indeed. I highly recommend seeing this one.
Special Features include :
- Audio Commentary With Director John McNaughton And Producer Steven A. Jones