'Dark Harvest' review: Stylish horror flick yields a bloody good time
Courtesy of MGM
A worthy addition into the canon of annual Halloween flicks, David Slade’s bloody, retro, and downright fun “Dark Harvest” has all the ingredients for the perfect fall-themed movie. Adapted from the bestselling novel by Norman Partridge, “Dark Harvest” is “The Hunger Games” meets “Trick ‘r Treat” and is filled with plenty of Halloween vibes and decor to the point you’ll feel legally mandated to pour yourself a hot apple cider before dusting off a flannel and wearing it for the rest of the day. Few movies these days can evoke those types of feelings, but Slade, alongside cinematographer Larry Smith, conjure immaculate vibes where, at their peak, are reminiscent of John Carpenter, who was obviously an inspiration for the filmmakers.
Slade, who hasn’t directed a full length feature since 2018’s “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” and before that 2010’s “Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” returns to his “30 Days of Night” horror roots and taps into that spooky lore of a new ghoul named Sawtooth Jack. The film is set circa 1963 (!) in a small midwestern town where, every Halloween, ole’ Sawtooth emerges from the cornfield to cause all types of terror. The town’s angsty teenage boy population are then sent, in a twisted and demented right-of-passage that’s mandatory, on the hunt in a Purge-esq setting where they wear masks, are amped on testosterone, and ready to feast (literally) on Sawtooth Jack.
The film opens with this exact scene in 1962 where we see the process playout in real time before young Jim Shephard (Britain Dalton) bludgeons Sawtooth Jack to death and then rips open his stomach and chows down on his guts. Yum! Fast forward one year, and Jim’s younger brother Richie (Casey Likes) wants a piece of the pie and to be victorious even though he’s technically exempt because his brother won the previous outing. Still, he gathers his greaser buddies (and the new girl he’s crushing on and fellow outcast Kelly, played by E’myri Cruthcfield) and heads into the streets for the annual hunt.
Along the way, secrets about the town and the society that runs it, known as The Harvester’s Guild, are unearthed, but it’s here where screenwriter Micheal Gilio can sometimes bite off more than he can chew. The findings offer more questions than answers, but Slade makes up for those shortcomings in the stylish execution. The streets being overrun with rowdy teens, backlit cornfields, and the presence of Sawtooth Jack, which basically has the appearance of Jack Skeleton if he were demonic and on acid, make for solid entertainment. Proving style over substance isn’t always a death sentence.
DARK HARVEST is now available on digital.