Movie Review

Film Review: THE HARVEST (2015): Hamming It Up

Samantha Morton Charlie Tahan The Harvest
Written by Drew Stelter

The Harvest (2015Film Review, a movie directed by John McNaughton, starring Samantha Morton, Michael Shannon, Natasha Calis, Charlie Tahan, Peter Fonda, Meadow Williams, Nolan Lyons, Hayden Oliver, and Amina Robinson.

It is beyond argument that Michael Shannon is one of the best character actors working today. His talents are succeeded only by his still surprisingly-low name and face recognition, an unfortunate casualty of today’s hyper-sexualized system which often feeds the frenzied masses with sex appeal rather than talent.

That’s why it’s so disappointing to see him star in The Harvest (2015), an exceptionally disappointing film better fit for the Lifetime Movie Channel than the nation’s theaters or even DVD players.

Following the death of  Maryann’s (Natasha Calis) parents, her grandparents (Peter Fonda and Leslie Lyles) take guardianship and move her into their secluded, backwoods home. When exploring the woods among the golden leaves of fall, she happens upon a modest home and eyes a boy, Andy (Charlie Tahan), asleep in his bedroom. They quickly become friends after she climbs through his window and they do what all children seem to do now these days: play video games.

Having accepted that Andy cannot walk and is confined to a wheelchair, Maryann is unprepared for what comes next: an angry  and beyond paranoid mother, Katherine (Samantha Morton), and an anxious, hesitant father, Richard (Michael Shannon), whose weathered appearance is an obvious sign that he has tired of his wife’s constant energy-draining antics.

Following her gut, Maryann continues to visit Andy despite a surprise visit from Katherine to her grandparents, requesting that she stay away from her terminally-ill son. Whilst attempting to escape from the home upon Katherine’s return, Maryann stumbles upon a truly disturbing secret in Andy’s basement that threatens the lives of all involved.

The film, directed by Wild Things director John McNaughton, is fraught with amateurish mistakes that have everything to do with poor execution and absolutely nothing to do with the film’s low budget. The story is clearly worth developing and exploring, as it does have an interesting hook with  a few “surprise” revelations that could potentially deliver a true shock if unveiled correctly.

The script is woefully inadequate, however, to handle the infrastructure required to build true suspense. It’s a wonder that none of the actors fell into any of the film’s dozens of plot holes and unexplained, nonsensical developments. The execution is even worse, with an inappropriate, distracting score and bewildering editing, resulting in a clunky narrative, truncated tension, and loss of opportunity.

With some of the hammiest of hammy acting audiences have ever seen, Samantha Morton delivers a performance that harkens back to Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, a performance and film known to be so bad that it’s good. The same can be said of this film, although to a lesser degree. It has an interesting-enough story, is suspenseful-enough, and is populated with famous-enough actors that the film resembles nearly every other Lifetime film: it’s good-enough. It’s one of those films that you record on your DVR because it sounds interesting, but end up just deleting to make room for something else that you really want to watch.

Rating: 4.5/10

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About the author

Drew Stelter

Drew is a 26-year-old film buff. A native Utahan, he attends the Sundance Film Festival annually. He is a member of the Salt Lake Film Society. In a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he attended the Oscars Red Carpet on March 2, 2014, after winning an essay contest through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. At any given time he can be expected to be conversing via movie quote GIFs.

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