FILM REVIEW: HARPOON (FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL)
Another year down for Montreal’s FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, one of the biggest festivals in the way of Sci-Fi, Horror, and Fantasy. FEAR FOREVER is wrapping up its 2019 coverage with the nautical nightmare that is HARPOON. A twisted horror-comedy that shows us the bloody snowball effect of the ‘eye for an eye’ mentality. HARPOON is another horror film in the already blood saturated filmography of writer-director Rob Grant, who flexes his ability as an adept storyteller in this lost at sea love triangle gone bad.
HARPOON starts out in familiar enough territory. When Richard thinks his girlfriend, Sasha, and his best friend, Jonah are sleeping with each other, fists fly and Jonah takes a brutal beating. Feeling resentful for flying off the handle yet again, Richard takes the three of them out on his father’s yacht. A paid-off apology that is somewhat of a pattern for the 3 friends.
Once out at sea, all is not forgiven, however, and when they all decide to head home after a day trip involving more violent scuffles, they find the boat won’t start. Stranded with nothing to eat or drink the three frenemies’ last shreds of decency are tested even more as things quickly devolve into a savage fight for survival.
This grisly tale actually starts out rather fun. STRANGER THINGS’ Brett Gelman provides us with some dry humor commentary as narrator, introducing us to our characters and their situation and returning throughout to remind us that yes, things are going exactly as fate has planned and will only get worse. Gelman delivers these well-written lines perfectly in a manner not far off from the style of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.
Although there is plenty to be amused by from Gelman, HARPOON’s darker side is vicious. As the violence escalates we realize we are in a for a grim show of terrible people doing terrible things to each other. HARPOON’s nastiness is insidious as slapstick gives way to cruelty. HARPOON cracks some sick jokes, then ominously asks us why we are laughing.
HARPOON features three characters who are so bad for each other they have no business even being in the same room as each other let alone lifelong friends. While HARPOON doesn’t take itself too seriously the whole time when it does it poses to us some big, introspective questions about the right and wrong reasons we keep people in our lives. Richard, Jonah, and Sasha are so trapped in their toxic cycle of physical and emotional abuse that they can’t see their inevitable spiral into mutually assured destruction.
HARPOON’s cast conveys these complicated themes in an ensemble performance that is particularly impressive. Munro Chambers, Emily Tyra, and Christopher Gray are unafraid to play up their characters more detestable qualities. Tyra brings a much-needed dose of estrogen to the story, managing to elicit empathy while still being obnoxious. Chambers and Gray bounce well off of each other. Gray is able to bring an air of toxic masculinity in a self-deprecating, amusing manner and Chambers once again reaches into his notable acting range and made me shudder with his seedy and disturbing performance.
HARPOON is a film that made bold choices both in tone and narrative. However, they paid off as the comedy and horror made each other more prominent and effective. In any case, the waters run red and you will enjoy every minute of it. HARPOON made a great addition to FANTASIA FESTIVAL this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on some ‘Best of 2019’ lists at the end of the year.
“HARPOON cracks some sick jokes, then ominously asks us why we are laughing.”
3 and a half tombstones out of 5…