David Slade’s newest film, Dark Harvest, has a lot of potential, but ultimately proves to be a frustrating watch.
PLOT: A legendary monster called October Boy terrorizes residents in a small Midwestern town when he rises from the cornfields every Halloween with his butcher knife and makes his way toward those who are brave enough to confront him.
REVIEW: I always love a good curse story and when you add in the town sacrifice element I’m even more on board. Dark Harvest deals with a pumpkin monster that comes around every Halloween, that the boys from the town must kill in order to keep the town alive with a bountiful harvest. These boys are from the wrong side of town, so they’re less fortunate and often forced to do it. Whichever boy kills the monster, gets a massive prize and their family is set up well in the community. The concept is interesting and there’s a lot of potential here. Unfortunately, it blunders at nearly every turn.
One of the primary issues with Dark Harvest is that the lead character Richie doesn’t even have to participate in the run, and makes a point of it. And he completely drops the ball when he’s faced with adversity, proving everyone else right. He constantly makes a point of how he’s ready for this and yet he couldn’t be more unprepared. Nobody seems to have a solid plan, which is strange given that the prior years’ participants were so on the ball. It’s something I couldn’t help but be annoyed with as it instantly made Richie unlikeable. His arc is too obvious to have such a detour and I felt it just harmed the character. He’s far too incapable and fails at nearly every turn.
Emyri Crutchfield was absolutely phenomenal in the fourth season of Fargo and she’s easily the strongest cast member here. If anything, she wasn’t in it nearly enough as her involvement is when the film gets the most interesting. But in the end, she also suffers from far too much inaction. And I’ll always enjoy Jeremy Davies in any role he does. But everyone else is fairly forgettable. The boys all blend together to the point that I question why they even bothered giving some of them backstories. There’s so much gratuitous murder in this that I started to lose count. And while I always love me some brutal violence, one of the reveals makes very little sense.
David Slade always has a visual flare with his films and here is no different. There are some genuinely beautiful shots throughout this. But the dumb story decisions are going to have you scratching your head. Maybe I just needed to turn my brain off more and just enjoy it for what it was, but I kept getting increasingly frustrated. It always cracks me up when teenagers are so confident and then they immediately fail to deliver. And this happens repeatedly throughout the film. While this certainly echoes real life, it gets a tad comical and clashes with the town legend aspect. There were plenty of unintentionally funny moments but my favorite was probably the montage of all the teenagers being upset that they have to fast. They’re so petulant about it that it’s hard not to just laugh.
The inconsistencies with the violence were also hard to even get a grip with. One minute there are boys too scared to even pick up a weapon, the next they’re willing to kill for some meat. And all because they had to fast? Feels like very weak reasoning. Especially when everyone knows the stakes, yet despite seeing people straight-up murdered in front of them, they still don’t seem to have a second gear. Dark Harvest is constantly suffering from “just take a minute to explain the problem” versus just staying silent and letting the issue escalate. No one says anything of any real meaning when they need to. It’s all “helps” or silence.
And while plenty in this film frustrated me, I do have to give it some credit for where the story ended up. There’s a great element that I won’t spoil, but it almost made up for some of the stupidity in the buildup. But the issue is that the finale should have been the entire third act. We should have seen some comeuppance for the bad people, not just an implication of what will happen. Unfortunately, the inconsistencies and lack of action from damn near every character in the film, makes Dark Harvest a very frustrating watch. I came away from this disliking every character and not seeing the point in the film. And I feel like that’s one of the worst notes to leave off on for any film. Especially when I feel the premise had such potential.
DARK HARVEST IS AVAILABLE DIGITALLY ON OCTOBER 13TH, 2023.