David Slade’s latest creation, “Dark Harvest,” an adaptation of Norman Partridge’s novel, brings back the kind of Halloween thrill often absent from October releases. This film isn’t about deeply disturbing you or delving into the complexities of existential villains. While those movies have their place, “Dark Harvest” with its sprawling cornfields, remote community, and a pumpkin-headed creature, simply aims to scratch that spooky autumn itch.
Synopsis: Set in the 1960s in Bastion, Illinois, Halloween night in this rural town isn’t for trick-or-treating. It marks the annual return of Sawtooth Jack, a brutal entity provoking a violent faceoff among the town’s teen boys. The task: take him down, or the harvest and the town are doomed.
Plot: The boy who defeats Sawtooth Jack gets a shiny new car, permission to leave town (forbidden to others), a new house, and membership in the town’s guild. Richie (Casey Likes), brother of last year’s winner, Jim (Britain Dalton), plans to be this year’s champion. But as the darkness surrounding the town unravels, Richie finds himself battling not only Sawtooth Jack but also the city of Bastion itself.
Review: “Dark Harvest” is a blend of “The Hunger Games” and “Children of the Corn,” catering to a younger audience with its straightforward emotions and teenage protagonists. The film’s strength lies in its brutal and unexpected kills, establishing a clear hierarchy among Bastion’s residents. Slade’s direction shines during “The Run,” a chaotic pursuit of Sawtooth Jack, with a mesmerizing yet confusing quality to the scenes.
However, the film’s worldbuilding is lacking, leaving viewers puzzled. Important details about the town’s rules and Sawtooth Jack’s lore are mentioned casually, demanding more exploration to solidify the film’s foundation. The performances are average, hindered by stereotypical characters and shallow dialogue. Even the emotional core, Richie’s longing for his brother, feels underdeveloped, and the supporting characters lack depth.
Conclusion: “Dark Harvest” falls short in terms of a fully realized narrative but compensates with action-packed entertainment. While it doesn’t take itself too seriously, the film’s blood and weapons keep the interest alive, despite unanswered questions dragging it down.
Now available on Paramount+.