The Harvest see’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer director John McNaughton coming fully back to the horror genre in a dark and stark thriller with a gripping story the less you know about the better it is.
The film centers on the cripplingly sick Andy (Frankenweenie’s Charlie Tahan) a boy who is wheelchair bound and confined to his room in the remote house where his parents Katherine and Richard (Samantha Morton and Michael Shannon) take full time care of him.
With only the corn outside his window to watch and his Xbox for company Andy leads a sad and secluded life that is until Maryann (Natasha Calis from The Possession) pops up outside his window and becomes his friend.
The pair get along great and Andy’s life seems to be improving however his mother is dead set against this new arrival infiltrating into their lives and affecting Andy’s health starting up and aggressive campaign to get rid of Maryann and reinstate the routine of her unhappy home.
As mentioned the less you know about The Harvest the more you will get from it (I fact don’t even watch the trailer!) and McNaughton guides the audience along perfectly painting a vivid picture of Andy’s life and the world around him that is filed with pain and guilt, unhappiness and stress all brought on by his terrible disease.
The two teenage leads are great and their growing relationship is believable and sensitive with both Tahan and Calis never teetering into sickly sentimentality, something teen romance movies in the same vein do all the time.
The struggle Andy goes through even to perform simple tasks is well documented emphasizing him as a victim and a prisoner yet displaying the inner fight he has that will be more than challenged as the film progresses. As an orphan and a loner Maryann is a complex character herself and working as the audiences eyes we see the true horror’s the house holds through her.
Most important of all are the amazing performances of Samantha Morton and Michael Shannon who bring so much to the characters they play truly uncovering the terrible burden brought on by caring for a sick child and the deep and uncontrollable love they have to do anything to make him better.
Almost playing good cop bad cop to Andy, Shannon is the more sensitive side of the couple allowing more leeway in the kids relationship yet perpetually beaten down verbally by his wife who revels in the fact that she is a doctor and he is a nurse.
Trying to do the best he can the sheer pressure put on him is visibly etched on his face as the marriage breaks down around him and he watches the woman he loves become something he hates.
As Katherine, Morton is brilliant bringing a chilling strength to the role of a mother desperate to find a way to make her son well again. Evoking Kathy Bates in Misery not just in her frumpy look but also the ragging anger that lies just underneath her ice-cold polite exterior she manages to bring a sincerity and sensitivity to someone who does awful things in the name of motherly love.
Lacking a distribution deal at this point The Harvest is not easy to watch dealing as it does with themes of death, disease, parents remorse and childhood loss. But it is a riveting thriller packed with pitch perfect performances that needs to be seen.