Fantasia Film Festival 2014: The Harvest (2013)

I’ve put this off long enough. The Harvest was one of the later additions to my Fantasia list.

It also had the director John McNaughton hosting the movie so we had a Q&A afterwards which I stayed for, even though it was so late and a Monday night.  Regardless, I sat around wondering how to write this review and the animations were just easier to write up because I knew exactly how I felt for those. Actually, its not not knowing where I stand but actually how to write it without exposing too much. I feel like there’s an aspect here where if you figured out what was going down the whole time (and I have no idea how you would), maybe the shock factor would be less and the impact would be less as well.

First, lets start with a little synopsis of The Harvest.

The HarvestDirector: John  McNaughton

Cast: Michael Shannon, Samantha Morton, Natasha Calis, Charlie Tahan, Peter Fonda

A mother and doctor, Katherine (Samantha Morton) and her husband and former nurse Richard (Michael Shannon) are bound to their home to take care of their very sick son, Andy (Charlie Tahan).  They keep him under their close surveillance all the time and restrict him from going outdoors to protect him from possibly getting worse, hoping it will ease him into recover.  However, when Maryann (Natasha Calis), a young girl moving in next door comes by and sneaks in to play with Andy, their friendship grows with each others company.  Maryann finds her only friend in this new town that she just moved into after her parents death and Andy learns companionship that he hasn’t had before.  Except, Katherine is not quite so accepting of this and finds all ways possible to prevent Maryann from coming by again.  Maryann’s persistence leads to a growing resentment and challenges the control Katherine has over Andy.

The Harvest Natalie Calis

Everything starts with this situation up there.  The Harvest doesn’t sound like there’s a lot going on from my synopsis.  For the most part, you might even wonder if you’re just watching a drama, at least I did.  Except, when the turning point happens, things really crumble really fast.  Lets just say overprotective mothers are the one thing you DO NOT want to encounter especially when trying to get between them.  See, thats why I stopped dating a certain type of guys.  That was a joke but also true.  But I do see reason in all that.  I grew up with a overprotective mother as well but after I saw this, I realized its really just me who thought she was like that.  I mean, one of the fun parts of watching this movie with a bunch of other people who obviously like film  and have fun with these events is that at some point, some guy in the crowd yells, “Crazy bitch” and of course, everyone laughs even though its super intense.  Seriously, I kept whispering that under my breath but this guy went out and said it.  Very awesome 😉

The Harvest

So far, this write-up is really going nowhere.  One thing that is very true is that although The Harvest is slow and its like nothing really much is going on and question marks are floating around my head for a good part of the beginning because I don’t get the deal of this lady, this movie is all about dark humor. In the Q&A session, someone asked the director John McNaughton whether we were supposed to laugh during some of the parts.  This is a pretty intense and serious and psychologically creepy story.  Trust me, I laughed and a few others did at certain points too. I see the point as to why someone might not laugh at it because you are just sitting here tensed up but I truly think it was meant to be funny and break the intensity just a little.  Anyways, he answers something really smart along the lines of how when things get really grim, its good to use some humor to balance it.  I agree with that 🙂

The Harvest

I’ve only seen Michael Shannon in a few roles before this one but he’s always been the dark roles type of guy in my mind.  And thats how he is fantastic for this role.  He’s not exactly in a great position: his marriage is somewhat strained because his wife doesn’t trust his abilities to care for their son and well, no one can do better for him because she is the doctor.  Then, his son is sick and having a hard time recovering.  You can see that he is stuck in the middle of two sides and he is trying to create a balance but he struggles to find one at the same time.  He may be a bit more accepting of Maryann’s “intrusion” into their lives but he also doesn’t want to create more trouble than needed.

On the other hand, Samantha Morton is also wildly fantastic in this role. As the irrationally overprotective mom, she nails it.  Every moment she’s on screen is a moment you wonder what she’ll do next because she’s unpredictable and as the movie goes along, you really have no idea how she’ll react because things get crazy and intense.  Katherine is a complex character and Samantha Morton takes it and really runs with it.

The Harvest

The children in this movie, Natasha Calis and Charlie Tahan are casted pretty well also. They both have  great job doing their respective roles.  Charlie Tahan’s Andy is simply sickly and he really is weak and has no control over his life.  Even though, he wants to achieve many things in his life, we can see his boredom and the enthusiasm and hope that Maryann brings him.  On the other hand, Maryann is a great character played by Natasha Calis, she starts with a pretty grim look at life because she doesn’t want to be in this small town living with her grandparents.  However, her literal breaking into Andy’s room was a pretty funny accident and one that initiates a lot of other problems as the movie progresses.  Her persistence for the friendship is amazing but at the same time, her loyalty is what wins the heart of the audience.  Although she makes some silly choices in my opinion, it does enhance the idea that she is just a child and she will not have well-thought out plans like adults.

The Harvest

Overall, The Harvest is a pretty good horror movie.  It targets the psychological aspect of an overprotective mother and that gets way out of control really fast.  Its a modern and twisted look at a classic fairy tale, is what the director calls it. I won’t tell you which one but I can totally see it.  The atmosphere that John McNaughton creates is really amazing.  The setting is well chosen and the cast really pulls off how the characters should act.  Sure, I spent a good part of the movie not really knowing where this is going but there is no doubt that the intensity notches up exponentially as the story picks up and we really see whats going on.

The Harvest is slow, gripping, intense ride into the world of a dark and troubled family and a girl that enters into it by mistake and the discoveries she makes and the things she needs to overcome.  I’m not sure how many people will appreciate it but I definitely did.  When the movie ended, I really thought that John McNaughton (although I saw nothing of his before) picked a great story and chose a really good angle in portraying it the way he did.

Are you familiar with the work of Michael Shannon? John McNaughton? How about the rest of the cast? What type of horror movies are the most effective for you?

Frankenweenie (2012)

I love Tim Burton.  I’ve been slacking off a bit on the more recent movies that he’s made.  I haven’t seen last year’s Dark Shadows yet, but I intend on owning all his movies and I do own quite a few as of now.  If I wanted to do a Tim Burton marathon, it would be pretty much successful.  The newest animation from Tim Burton is the film version of his short from early on in his directing.   I’ve been looking forward to watching this a while…

frankenweenie posterDirector: Tim Burton

Cast: Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Winona Ryder, James Hiroyuki Liao, Robert Capron

This is a story of a young boy and his dog.  When Victor Frankenstein(Charlie Tahan) loses his dog Sparky, under the inspiration of his new science teacher Mr. Ryzkruski’s (Martin Landau) lesson in class, he decides to use electricity to bring Sparky back to life.  However, he knows that Sparky can’t be revealed and he tries to hide him.  Beyond his control, Sparky ends up wandering around the neighborhood and get seen by his fellow classmates, Edgar (Atticus Shaffer) who then leaks it to Toshiaki (James Hiroyuki Liao) and a few others, who get inspired to change the odds of their chances in the coming science fair and experiments with something that ends up more than they bargained for, the town learns the difference between the good and bad in science.

frankenweenie victor sparky

Tim Burton is definitely great at stop-motion animation.  This is Burton to the core, reaching back to a him that I haven’t seen in his recent works in a long time.  It was missed and this was energetic and passionate piece of work.  The black and white filming really gave it a nice touch and kept it eerie but fun.  Only Burton can actually bring that in, especially when he tosses up the character designs and gives a lot of them some really weird or evil or gentle looks to show their personality.

frankenweenie class

Victor Frankenstein showed such awesome personality and passion for his project as he learned more about science in itself along with its consequences, we also learn and feel as he loses and fights to keep this best friend with him.  We suffer the loss of losing a pet and a part of our family.  In this animation, Victor doesn’t get all the credit though.  Just the classmates involved each had their own charm and magic, whether they were hardcore or mean and he gave it a nice twist by making the characters multicultural.  Plus, it was a mix of evil and some look bad but wasn’t really that bad, some was purely weird and then we have genuinely nice but left out.  All the children was voiced very energetically.

frankenweenie elsa

It was definitely a fun film.  My favorite character had to be Mr. Ryzkruski because he was so blunt and not caring about his consequences.  He was the mentor and inspiration of Victor even till the very end.  Plus, Winona Ryder’s Elsa was really great also.  It was a captivating animation.  There was a charm that really kept this movie engaging the whole time.

frankenweenie ryzkruski

Definitely great watch! If you are a Tim Burton fan, this is definitely a must-see! You can see his passion and energy just by how he perfectly sets everything up.  I loved it! The story was totally awesome, the physical character designs were fitting and they were voiced enthusiastically.  All around fun film.  It never gets too serious even when we hit the peak but it also teaches us lessons and even hits on little signs from the original Frankenstein novel.  It has a lot of style especially with the black and white.

Loved it to bits! 🙂

Whats your Tim Burton fave? Did you like Frankenweenie? Are you a Tim Burton fan?