When done well, horror movies possess a unique quality. Many important socio-political problems that could be overly didactic and dull in a traditional play are often tackled in horror films.
However, when it is contained within the well-known horror and slasher genre patterns, it becomes enjoyable. Even though the deeper themes might not be immediately clear on the first viewing, the movie gets more complex and enjoyable to watch again.
David Slade’s horror film Dark Harvest, which is genuinely made, focuses on the hero myth, biased conduct, and how simple it is to incite adolescents through the us vs them storyline.
The tension between the individual and the group is also present, but it is all concealed beneath a surface that is eerily reminiscent of a 1960s American small town but is far different from it.
The first part of Dark Harvest introduces us to this creepy hamlet, which is supposedly located in Illinois. The Harvester’s Guild, who oversee the village, has a unique method for making sure that there is an abundant harvest every year.
The true excitement here is that, before the clock strikes twelve at midnight, a monster by the name of Sawtooth Jack will rise from the earth and attempt to enter the church. That’s the good ol’ bureaucratic stuff of this town.
Since then, this occurrence has persisted; I’m not sure when, but that’s precisely the point, so there’s no need to dispute it. For this beast, there is no history.
Like the seasons, it is. The village prepares to stop Sawtooth Jack every Halloween, but the teenage guys of the town are left to handle the task. They have one mission, like an aimless army driven by testosterone and adrenaline, which is to kill the monster since failing to do so would jeopardize their “way of life.”
This is a ridiculous “way of life.” This town is devoid of happiness.
It’s a cunning move by director David Slade to have the town appear to be lifted straight out of 1950s movies. The actors’ hairstyles are the kind that will ensure Brylcreem’s continued success for at least a decade.
The never got their hands filthy or interacted with the creature, which makes it even more ridiculous. The winner is declared to be the person who eliminates the monster for the entire year.
Who won what? October? Whoa, did someone say “run”? Not relevant. The winner receives a brand-new car from a member of the Harvester Guild, and the parents who risked everything to save their kid get to live in a luxurious home. It’s interesting to see that when someone “wins,” there is a carnival-style celebration.
That utterly dismisses the possibility that there is any honor involved in this, akin to someone being awarded a medal for valor.
The grownups in the village didn’t treat the annual occasion with the gravitas one might expect. The chaos that erupted on Halloween each year had grown stale. Only the teenagers got really excited about it, in true Halloween fashion.
The Shepherd family is at the center of the narrative. The regulations stated that Jim’s younger brother Richie was not allowed to compete because Jim had won the year before. The hunter-hunter game was as lethal as it got.
It was impossible for the other townies to follow Jim out of town since they would have needed authorization from the guild. Now that he had the opportunity to slay the monster and go meet his brother Jim outside of town, Richie was determined to show his worth.
After that, the movie plunges us into a terrifying battle royale search in which nobody can be sure they will survive. The “long night of Halloween” is brilliantly documented on film. The hue is stunning, and the contrast between the orange and yellow tones at dusk heightens the ominous atmosphere of the evening.
The movie does a fantastic job of building anticipation just before the creature reappears. A particularly memorable part of the movie is the surreal sequences in the agricultural field. Despite the fact that several of the characters die that night, Richie and the others are given distinct personalities.
The way the 1960s town is portrayed visually in the movie makes it seem like a musical. The individuals seem to be aware that they are movie characters.
Perhaps it was done on purpose to represent the characters’ lack of roots. They never ask why so many guys had to die every year or who the guild is.
Dark Harvest does a good job of keeping its political overtones from becoming too complicated. The movie follows its characters and sticks to the storyline.
However, the movie loses its spark in the final twenty minutes of the movie due to something. It was startling how quickly the movie was concluded.
It appears as though the film’s finale was filmed in the second half and an overlong end-credit scene was added to make up for the absence of a third act. The actual nature of the Harvester’s Guild remains a mystery to us.