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Dark Harvest (2023)

'Dark Harvest' is a movie adaptation of the 2006 Norman Partridge novel of the same name. This movie has suffered a rather messy production and advertising campaign. Originally set for a theatrical release in September 2021 before suffering multiple push backs, to then find its way to direct streaming services with no theatrical release and no warning for fans who had been patiently awaiting its fruition. As with most movies that go through such a troubled preproduction, the outcome is usually less than desirable by the time it reaches its inevitable release. The question is, does 'Dark Harvest' suffer the same fate?


The premise of 'Dark Harvest' is a very interesting one to say the least. I can understand why people who have read the novel that this is adapted from, being excited by the idea of it getting a big screen adaptation. However, even though I have not read the book, I can't help but feel like this has fail in its execution of that transition. There appears to be so much exposition missing from this movie regarding the lore and history of Sawtooth Jack and the towns people that encourage this annual ritual. Its not often I say this, but this is a premise I feel would work much better on a limited series basis, having movie time to explore the backstory and world building that feels so vitally absent here.


Personally, I'm not a big fan of era set movies, even more so when it's an era in time that I have no personal or nostalgic connection too. 'Dark harvest' is set in the year 1962, I can't help but feel like this would be a better suited tale to a more present day setting or, set slightly into the future. That being said, director David Slade does a really good job of recapturing the feel and tone of this 60s. From the well crafted set design, the era suited costume department, the score and soundtrack and even the use of lighting and beige colour pallet, everything about this feels very fitting to the cultural decade that was the 60s. Pairing all of this with flawlessly executed cinematography from Larry Smith and regardless of everything else, 'Dark Harvest' is an aesthetically pleasing movie to watch.


The cast is competent enough for the most part. Richie played by Casey Likes, is the central focus of the movie and quite easily the strongest of the collective. Considering his fairly unknown presence as an actor, I found myself very engaged in his at times quite emotionally performance. I also enjoyed seeing Jeremy Davis who plays Richie's dad Dan, step away from his more commonly known bit roles on TV shows. And even though he plays pretty much the same nervous jittery characters here as he does in everything, I found him to be a very welcomed addition to this movie. The weakest link of the cast by quite a substance margin is Luke Kirby who plays Officer Rick's. His over acting and eccentric character portrayal is almost unbearable in some scenes.


The kill sequences in this movie are truly amazing, I wasn't expecting it to go quite as graphic and violent as it did. With decapitations, limbs being torn from bodies and excessive mutilations, they really didn't hold back when it comes to showcasing some truly graphic content. And even though a lot of these are heavily CGI, they still look outstandingly convincing. Combine this, with a truly horrifying and intimidating antagonist in Sawtooth Jack, whose makeup and overall design looks flawless, this is one element of the production that is hard not to show appreciation for. Given my usually disdain for CGI shows how much of a great job I think 'Dark Harvest' does with its visually effects.


Overall, Dark Harvest is an aesthetically please movie to watch, with great direction and cinematography, some insanely brutal kill sequences and and impressive autumnal Halloween feel to its overall tone. Unfortunately, there just doesn't feel like enough meat on the bones here to satisfy anything other than mindless entertainment. I personally didn't dislike this movie at all, if anything I really enjoyed my time with it. It just feels like a missed opportunity given the scope and potential this source material could offer for a big screen adaptation. I think a sequel to this would help flesh out some of the much need world building and enhance this first effort to a much higher level.


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