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The Harvest (Blu-ray Review)

HarvestIn his first film in nearly 15 years, the director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer harks back to the twisted suspense that made his 1986 debut a horror milestone with The Harvest . Deeply unsettling, The Harvest is a taut psychological thriller that examines that horrors that can lurk in unsuspecting places.   Showcasing a powerhouse performance by Samantha Morton that is both utterly monstrous and tragically desperate, The Harvest also features an impressive performance by Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Man of Steel) as the subdued suburban father as well as screen legend Peter Fonda as the character in the film Maryann’s grandfather.  Not to mention there are some good turns from the young cast members.

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Film 

Maryann moves in with her grandparents after she’s orphaned. Desperately lonely, the preteen sets out to befriend a deathly ill, bed-ridden boy, despite the outright disapproval of his overprotective mother. Maryann’s persistence pays off, however, and during a series of secret visits she gradually uncovers some seriously sinister goings-on in the house.

John McNaughton directed one of the best and most disturbing horror films ever in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, where he was put to work with a damn intimidating actor Michael Rooker.  How excited was I to see him doing another horror film and paired with Michael Shannon?  This isn’t quite that, but its worth nothing, as Shannon is a very creepy character actor in the vein of what Rooker was (and still is).

The Harvest is a slow cooker of a horror film.  For a good almost 3/4 of this, its almost a TV movie about a special needs child finding a friend in the girl who just moved in down the way with a trauma of her own.  But the mother of the boy is overprotective.  The film is genius in that it sits around and lets you keep wondering when the horror is coming and making you guess as to what is up with this whole scenario.  And when it shows you, it does not disappoint.

This gets to be a pretty intense movie for much of all the (relatively strong) drama you sit through for much of two acts.  A lot of this is brought on by Samantha Morton in a powerhouse horror performance.  She’s so vile you just want to punch her in the face.  I won’t spoil anything on the turns in the film, but she nails it.  The kids here are quite good actors too, and Shannon as always is terrific, but this is Morton’s show.

If you are looking for something new in horror that plays more on suspense and are open to being pretty disturbed, PLEASE see The Harvest.  I was enjoying this film when it was pretty much a drama even for much of the movie.  Its slow burn to a T, done right, and features great direction and performances from its cast.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  As is to be expected, The Harvest looks wonderful on Blu-ray.  The image is sharp and well detailed.  Every little bit of surface in a house as well as clothing fabrics look distinct and have your head imagining exactly what they feel like.

Depth:  Depth is pretty good.  Interiors have a good sense of space between people and objects as well as smooth movements and clarity on background imagery when allowed.

Black Levels:  Blacks are nice and complimentary.  No detail is lost on hair, surfaces or darkened rooms.  No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors can pop when warranted.  Sandra’s burgundy jacket in the opening scene with Michael Shannon looks bold and rich.  Mostly things go for a more lived in and natural look, but everything is clean and strong as well.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones er on the side of being a tad cooler.  Facial detail like wrinkles, moles, scars and freckles show through very nicely.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanih

Dynamics:  The 7.1 for what this movie really is, is a bit excessive.  That said, the film does sound terrific.  Its got a rich layering and feel to get you a sense of the environment in every room of a house or exterior in the woods.  The movie rises to the occasion to make you jump, creep you out or get you intense when needed.

Low Frequency Extension:  There’s not a big demand on the sub woofer, but when its needed, it shines through.  Fire crackling and roaring as well as an SUV engine humming all get a very nice boost.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Rear and side speakers don’t get a whole lot to do aside from adding some ambiance and lightened sounds of what’s going on up front.  The front speakers give out a nice display of movement and volume.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean, crisp and clear.

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Extras 

The reverse side of the cover insert features the original theatrical poster that can be used as an alternative.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director John McNaughton and Producer Steven A. Jones

The Harvest Trailer (HD, 2:03)

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Summary 

The Harvest is a  very nice, tense horror-thriller that will not only have you biting your nails and getting punched in the guy a few times, but it will have you appreciating the drama going on in front of you.  Top notch performances with terrific directing elevated this little horror film.  The presentation of both audio and video on this disc are top notch.  There aren’t a slew of extras, but getting a commentary from McNaughton is nothing to scoff at.  I really enjoyed this one and I hope more check it out.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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