I recently watched Dario Argento’s Opera at the Alamo Drafthouse, and I saw a poster for Dark Harvest. I was surprised, and knew nothing of the film, having seen no press, no trailers, nothing to indicate what the film was. Upon doing some research, I found out it was a fairly famous 2006 novel by Norman Partridge (The Crow: Wicked Prayer), and was made in 2021, but due to COVID, it missed its release of September 24, 2021. Rescheduled for September 9, 2022, it was pulled yet again. Then, for one day only, in select Alamo Drafthouse cinemas, it was released on October 11, 2023, and then VOD two days later. What a mess!
In a small Midwestern town, a deadly annual ritual unfolds when the mythical nightmare, Sawtooth Jack, rises from the cornfields and challenges the town’s teenage boys in a bloody battle of survival.
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Tagline: Evil Stalks
David Slade directed the film, his prior horror credits being quite the mixed bag. His filmography includes 30 Days of Night, Hard Candy, and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. A little bit of everything in there. At least he has a pretty good history on the small screen, with episodes of Breaking Bad, American Gods, Hannibal, Powers, and Black Mirror.
“Come on, to a violent world with me,” the lyrics to “A Violent World” recorded in 1982 by the Misfits, an actual quote from the film, along with references to a New Jersey band with a record coming out called “Teenagers from Mars,” a song released in 1979, and the fact that all the kids wear Crimson Ghosts masks, are all good enough reasons for me to like this film. But did I? Is my love for the Misfits (Michale Graves era, naitch!) enough to give this a good review? Oh, and they also play “Since I Don’t Have You,” a 1958 song covered by Guns ‘N Roses on their 1993 album, The Spaghetti Incident? At least musically, this film gets a thumbs up from me.
I guess the time bending nature of the film, all the references to specific music, the 1960’s cars, the greaser looks of the 50’s, it all works, as it adds to the whole bizarre tone of the movie. There’s racism towards Hispanics and blacks, which would suggest the 60s or before, and they even reference a new car that is a 60s Corvette. A check at the end states it is October 31, 1963. But the Misfits references contradict this time period.
Everyone acts like they are in an episode of The Twilight Zone, all scared of this curse, and all following some rules that we are not always privy to or understand why. We just have to take these crazy people’s word for it. Like, why can’t the brother of a previous winner compete? And maybe I missed it somewhere, but what’s with them eating the food packets hungrily like wild animals? But once again, these odd plot points mix well with the confusing nature of the time period for the film.
That aside, it’s a bit of a blood thirsty horror version of The Hunger Games. That’s not a bad thing, either. The film looks great with some amazing cinematography in the corn field as well as a good balance of blues, greys and whites for a color palette. When we see lit pumpkins, it makes the oranges really pop. The special effects are great, too. Sawtooth Jack looks good as a villain, a smaller scale Pumpkinhead, if you will.
I recommend it as a fun Halloween film. Add it to the rotation in your 31 days of horror viewing. You won’t regret it. But do it soon, as it will probably be forgotten next year. This is the kind of movie that will fall between the cracks.