Return of 31 Days of Our Favorite Horror: The Harvest

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The Harvest (2013) Dir. John McNaughton

This is another Reddit recommendation that I found. Well, I saw the description pop up in my Netflix queue and I was very intrigued, based on the description and artwork in the queue. And of course, in an almost Pavlovian manner, I am trained to associate Michael Shannon with dread or villainy. And I also associate Samantha Morton with this silent, almost hidden dread, for whatever reason. And in this movie, both lead actors did not disappoint.

The story is a nice change of pace by placing the narrative into two primary places, two separate homes. One home is occupied by two overly protective parents, Shannon and Morton, who each expand ethical boundaries to treat their bed-ridden son. Morton’s character is a doctor and manages to collect medical equipment and medication to treat their son, who has a rare deficiency that keeps him short of breath and in his bed all day.

The son, Andy, is able to make friends with the new girl in town, Maryann, when she stumbles upon the home as she goes for a walk in the woods. Andy is always near his window, and he keeps the curtains open to see the world that he cannot be a part of. After an awkward meet-cute type of situation, the two quickly become friends.

Now, I was mostly engaged with the truly protective friendship between Maryann and Andy, but ultimately sad for the once creepy and smothering parents, Katherine and Richard, Morton and Shannon, respectively. There are some truly unnerving and uncomfortable moments between the overbearing Katherine, and the precocious Maryann. In fact, there are some shades of rage exhibited by Katherine every time Maryann insinuates herself into Andy’s life. Richard does his best to be the friendly dad and lets the two young friends be together.

There is a slow burn quality about this movie that does bog down at times, but when the flames begin to grow, the flames ignite and spread quickly. The entire movie is rather slow at times, but the tension in the house, the lack of outside intervention creates a somber and dreadful mood. The director, John McNaughton, master of mood and atmosphere, really milks the moments when each characters are at their lowest. Katherine saps the life out of both men in her home, nitpicking and undermining her husband, and possessing and later abusing her ill son. It’s like there was once a very palpable love between them all, but Katherine seems to be breaking from the pressures of working and trying to keep her son alive.

With Maryann, her life changed at the beginning of the movie when her parents are killed and she must live with her grandparents, who are neighbors to Katherine and Richard. Maryann and Andy are almost destined to be in each other’s lives as they both have a sense of loss and need that is not being met by those around them. Maryann’s grandparents do their best, but they’re still mourning the loss of their son, Maryann’s father.

I don’t want to spoil this movie, but shit gets weird during the last twenty minutes or so. Katherine becomes violent, seemingly out of the blue, the house catches fire, and people run for their lives. Cuckoo-bananas-bonkers is not quite what happens, but you might figure out where the story goes within the first ten minutes of the movie – possibly. But the direction and performances are so nuanced that I am inclined to not say that this is a horror film, rather a haunting psychological thriller. And it is ultimately rather sad.

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