Dark Harvest Review

Dark Harvest
Dark Harvest
Home » Blogs » Dark Harvest Review

Teenage life can be a drag wherever you are. But compose a special concerto for the harassed teenagers of Dark Harvest. In an unnamed, slumbering Midwestern village in the early sixties, the boys have more to think about than just hormones and homework. They also have to endure the yearly process of reducing their numbers: For a good harvest every year, they go after a scary-looking scarecrow on Halloween night, an unsteady monster that screams awfully and walks towards the church across the cornfield with its jack-o-lantern face grinning evilly at them. The crops would fail if they got inside. On the other hand, this teenager who manages to stop him wins his freedom from this rural hole – unlike everybody else – plus new house his family resides in, a new car, and bragging rights.

Sawtooth Jack does not really die without a fight (presumably because Pumpkinhead was already taken). Watching him treat one kid’s head like a Pez dispenser might make any of his classmates envy people who get stoned to death in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” which still remains the gold standard for stories about small American towns that engage in death-cult practices. Over just a few pages Jackson shrewdly hinted at what lay ahead for her unlucky contest “winners”. This is where Dark Harvest starts to show its age as a terminally stupid creature feature after years of being stuck on shelves.

Adapting Norman Partridge’s 2006 award-winning horror novel into a film, Michael Gilio tries at least once during his screenplay to reflect on what it would be like living with an impending deadly monster hunt all year long. (There is also a good early scene with terrified boys sitting on bleachers trying to convince themselves that Sawtooth isn’t real; however given how many students he kills over time, surely each year’s class sizes must put an end to such coping speculations.) Yet Dark Harvest’s small town 1960s never looks like anywhere real and it is not stylized enough to pass for a David Lynch mirage of yesteryear.

The characters are just as believable. The story follows Richie (Casey Likes) whose older brother, an all-American football hero, caught Sawtooth the previous Halloween and promptly skipped town. Richie just wants out too, despite the fact that he doesn’t have to do the ritual right? His parents are played by Elizabeth Reaser and Jeremy Davies as Stepford-chipper with identical haircuts, eyeglasses, and sad-dad attitudes worn by Henry Thomas in Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (another recent horror flick that unsuccessfully tried to set itself in an unconvincing America of the sixties).

Getting ready to take on the duties of a novice Van Helsing like this is not so urgent that Richie can’t make a love connection with the new girl in town Kelly (played by E’myri Crutchfield), who has to suffer through some casual racism as the town’s only black person. For someone not born into this insanity, Kelly seems awfully accepting of a place that sends its young men into yearly Hunger Games battle against a bloodthirsty demon. It’s also not exactly believable that a town this insular – a town that literally prevents its citizens from leaving – would welcome anyone new. Enforcing the border is a single vigilant sheriff (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Luke Kirby, loudly delivering what might best be described as Tim Robinson).

Inconvenient questions of logic and lore plague Dark Harvest like ravens settling on a scarecrow. Why does it have to be teenage boys hunting down Sawtooth? And how many teenagers are in this town exactly? Given the volume of blood, the monster spills each year, it doesn’t seem like the most sustainable ritual; at the rate Sawtooth butchers, you’d run out of bodies to feed into the pumpkin maw pretty quickly. Even factoring out his kill count, the kids themselves raise some significant havoc, running through the streets in Halloween masks like proto-Purgers, murdering each other and shopkeepers. Is the annual loss of lives and property damage really worth bounty upon bounty of vegetables? Also, how has this town with a secret managed to keep its secret? It’s not some truly isolated religious backwater: They have cars and telephones!

Put aside all points where Dark Harvest can be picked apart over plot holes and one is still left with an absurd melodrama that plods along until an obvious twist arrives. Only gore hounds will find much to savor. David Slade who directed nifty 30 Days of Night, queasy Hard Candy, and several episodes of TV’s Hannibal has some fun during the slasher portion of the evening. Any time Sawtooth is beheading or gutting some poor high-school jock, the movie briefly lurches to life; there is a darkly hilarious moment where the big guy staggers into a bunker full of hiding teens, his unseen massacre causing a Shining-style tsunami of blood. He’s a pretty good movie monster. He deserved a better movie.

My Verdict

After years in limbo, David Slade’s adaptation of the critically acclaimed horror novel Dark Harvest finally arrives on home media; and immediately one can perceive why it took such long time to get here. The monster, an undead scarecrow with a pumpkin head called Sawtooth Jack is cool. But everything else about this tale of a small town subjecting its teen boys to an annual ritual of violence is too silly for words – a slasher movie with delusions of Shirley Jackson grandeur!

Read Dark Harvest Review on Fmovies

Also, Read:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *