Harpoon: BRWC FrightFest Review – So, full disclosure, I’ve always been a sucker for movies set in one location. And while Rob Grant’s 2019 black comedy/horror does begin on land, it isn’t long before it’s lead trio of despicable twenty-somethings make their way onto the yacht that will serve as the setting for the remainder of the movie. What follows is like a sinister, unpredictable little movie that’s as much Reservoir Dogs as it is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The movie zips along at pace that’s both quick and well-pitched, moving swiftly and with precision from quirky teen-comedy to 90s style Cruel Intentions deception and even, during the later moments of the film, pure horror and gross-out humor. The fact that not a single one of the protagonists is in the slightest bit sympathetic or nice doesn’t harm the film either, as so much of the enjoyment comes more from watching the central trio tear themselves apart through their own petty squabbles and pointless backstabbing.
To give away much of the plot would be to spoil most of the fun, but suffice it to say that the film follows best friends Jonah, a miserable would-be loner who has lost his parents and squandered what little money they had left him, and Richard, the wannabe playboy son of a wealthy businessman (and maybe gangster), and Richard’s long-time girlfriend Sasha, as they embark on a day-trip out to sea on Richard’s yacht.
When dark secrets and rivalries begin to rear their ugly heads, things begin to take a turn for the worse… and then some. Soon the trio find themselves stranded in the ocean with no means of escape, and paranoia quickly becomes the main course.
Beyond that I can’t say much more, because the film twists and turns, reveling in each sudden new direction and unexpected piece of information. The fact that it manages to balance the shifts in tone as well as the shift in narrative is a testament to the quality of the filmmaking on display, and it never forgets to keep the audience entertained. The entire movie is presented to us through the use of a narrator (a voice-over provided by Strange Things’ Brett Gelman) who chimes in occasionally to give the audience context and backstory we may not otherwise be privy too. He’s also central to the movies best recurring gag, which involves listing of the many superstitions of sailors.
The cast are all on top form too. And, while the film goes a little overboard toward the end, with Munro Chambers perhaps needing to pull back a little in the films final moments, the fact that I remained intrigued to see what would happen and how this would all play out despite just how terrible they all are says a lot. The stand-out, however, is undoubtedly Emily Tyra as Sasha, who manages to somehow find the sympathetic side to an otherwise unsympathetic character, and as a result (in a specific scene that to say anything about beyond this would spoil far too much of the fun), manages to turn in a pretty emotionally charges performance as well.
Visually the film is beautiful, with the crisp, clear blue water of the ocean captured in all its glory, and the slow descent into madness perfectly presented and visualized through the film’s ever increasing spiral into darkness.
The music in Harpoon too, manages to expertly balance the tone of the piece, even during the sudden tonal shifts, and much like the visual style it compliments, as the film progresses so too does the music reflect the more sinister and more unsettling space the characters find themselves in.
Taking in references and influence from as varied a source as Edgar Allen Poe to The Life of Pie, Harpoon is almost gleeful in the way in which it continuously sets us up to expect something only to pull the rug out from under us at the last moment. That this practice not only doesn’t get, but actually becomes more intriguing and unexpected with each subsequent turn just goes to show how much fun it really is.
Even though our leads aren’t a particularly likeable bunch, and despite the movie’s willingness to go to some pretty dark places (I consider myself a horror fan and, as a result, have a pretty strong stomach, but there was one moment here that really did make me feel a little woozy), Harpoon remains an ever engaging and ever enjoyable experience. It has a dark, and oftentimes mean-spirited sense of humor, but when you’re having this much it’s hard not to get caught up in the madness of it all.
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