Harvest Lake (2016)

Directed by: Scott Schimer
Produced by: Brian K. Williams
Starring: Jason Crowe, Ellie Church, Tristan Risk, Dan Nye and Kevin Roach
Runtime: 78 minutes
Release Date: March 12, 2016

How do you feel about horror movies with the theme of dehumanizing a person or group of people? Bandit Motion Pictures and Scott Schirmer have mastered this thematic element in their films. I have seen three other titles from this production company – PLANK FACE (2016), HEADLESS (2015) and SPACE BABES FROM OUTER SPACE (2017). HARVEST LAKE fits in with the theme of PLANK FACE the best. The huge difference here is the use of sexuality as a central theme as opposed to pure brutality.

HARVEST LAKE is a beautiful film. Every scene committed to the movie matters. I can’t say that about many films whether big budget blockbusters or low budget indie flicks. The dense forest where this film takes place becomes an active character within the film due to the excellent cinematography.

The very first scene grabs your attention. A couple entangles in themselves in an act of pure unadulterated sex within the earthy woodland backdrop. Instantly, you realize full frontal nudity for both men and women is given equal measure. After this initial scene of uninhibited copulating, the couple walks into the lake. That, ladies and gentlemen, highlights how you grab an audience’s attention in a cold opening scene.

We are introduced to Cat (Tristan Risk), Jennifer (Ellie Church), Josh (Jason Crowe) and Ben (Dan Nye). They are on the way to a cabin in the woods to celebrate Ben’s birthday. I made notes on how much the scene driving into the woodlands in Ben’s van reminded me of an early 1980s slasher film. This is a great moment to witness in a modern horror movie. It introduces the characters, showing off each protagonist’s different personality. Cat is the wild one, Ben is Cat’s horny boyfriend, Jennifer is the timid one, and Josh is the gay friend who rides along to keep Jennifer from being the third wheel.

Once our heroes reach the destination, the viewer has become a part of the cast. I cannot stress enough how beautiful the cinematography is in HARVEST LAKE and how much it brings the audience inside the picture. Building on well-structured images, the soundtrack uses the natural ambience of nature to further immerse the viewer in the story. You will hear birds chirp, insects buzz, and leaves rustle as the group takes each step through the film. Yes, there is an actual soundtrack for this independent film that only intensifies the heart of the picture.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I will say that a new character Mark meets up with the group during a late evening campfire. They play a game of “truth or dare” which only intensifies the sexual atmosphere. The carnal tension in this film is thicker than fog on the foggiest morning in London. There are scenes of a sexual nature that range from solo masturbation to every combination possible from our cast of heroes. This movie is not for the faint of heart in regards to mature themes or content. It is best to go into this film with an open mind and enjoy the wide ranging ride delivered meaningfully by the cast.

Throughout the film, characters will see plants that resemble breasts, penises and vaginas. They all ooze with an organic presence that places them as both natural but also outside normal societal context. At one point Karen goes into the lake and is pulled down by a tentacle. The film aggressively presents tentacles and plants with sexual emissions. These would be this film’s monsters.

My one complaint about this film is that it has an open ended finish. When I say open ended, I literally mean an ending that is wide open with no hint at a definitive conclusion. After a vague closing scene, the credits roll. I should have seen this coming as I remember HEADLESS and PLANK FACE sort of doing the same thing, just not to this extent.

I recommend HARVEST LAKE if you are not bothered by seeing sex – gay, straight and everything in between. If you have not listened to the interview Mike Murphy did with director/producer Brian K. Williams (click here to listen) for the BBandBC Podcast or read the recently published review for SPACE BABES FROM OUTER SPACE by Bryan Clark on the BBandBC website, I strongly suggest doing so. Mike’s interview will give you a glimpse into one of the brilliantly creative minds behind Bandit Motion Pictures and Bryan’s review will highlight that this studio can make films of a lighter style with as much heart as the more serious HARVEST LAKE. That is my takeaway from HARVEST LAKE – it is filled with heart made by people that want to make the best motion pictures possible on their constrained budgets and limited resources. The film can be horrifying but fun in a different manner than any other horror film you may have seen.

Contributed by Rich Strahs