Harvest Lake (2016)
Although it may not always seem like it, I take my contributions to Flickfeast very seriously. Which is why I made a serious enquiry before writing this review about the image I had picked to accompany it. To anyone who has yet to see the film, that might just look like Tristan Risk looking as gorgeous as usual. But it’s an image that really does sum up this strange, sexual, horror. A film that feels as if every scene is being delivered to you while warm breath tickles the back of your neck. And it also has Tristan Risk looking as gorgeous as ever.
Four people head out to a remote cabin by a lake, where they intend to spend some time relaxing and being horny. There’s Ben (Dan Nye) and Cat (Risk), Jennifer (Ellie Church), and Josh (Jason Crowe). And a young man called Mark (Kevin Roach) also ends up joining them. Which is all I will say about the premise.
I know that I am underselling Harvest Lake. The above paragraph sounds like 100+ other slasher movies that you could choose to watch instead. Well, the first thing to do is to make you realise that this is NOT a slasher movie. Far from it. It’s actually not that easy a film to pin down, with the best category probably being “body horror”, but go into it knowing as little as possible and you could end up being as pleasantly surprised as I was.
Writer-director Scott Schirmer has impressed me a lot more here than he did with Found (a film so many other horror fans seemed to like more than I did). He’s clearly not working with a lot of money, but he makes the most of his budget, compensating for the weaker technical aspects with some interesting ideas. Things become clear as the movie plays out, yet nothing is spelled out. Indeed, the third act manages to both play out as you’d expect and also throw in a couple of surprisingly, and impressively, bizarre moments.
The cast all do well, especially considering the potential for the material to leave them high and dry. Many scenes could have ended up being laughably silly, and I’m still not entirely sure how they didn’t, and that ever-present sexual nature of the content means that it’s challenging, at times, for the cast to sell it without it feeling like simple exploitation fare.
If you’re looking for something that is far removed from most other horror movies that you can think of then this is for you. It’s a journey through some muddy waters, no pun intended, and moves briskly from a seemingly-predictable first act to a dark and unique middle section, leading to that weird and enjoyable finale. If you’re looking for simpler pleasures then, well, it also has moments like the one depicted above, with Tristan Risk looking as gorgeous as ever.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: SCOTT SCHIRMER
STARS: TRISTAN RISK, ELLIE CHURCH, DAN NYE, JASON CROWE, KEVIN ROACH
RUNTIME: 78 MINS APPROX