Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Ivan Kraljevic
Cast: Elena Caruso, Chris Conner, Jennifer Gareis
A film about familial struggles as much as the ghosts that haunt a seemingly peaceful Amish community, The Harvesting effectively intertwines the discomfort that can accompany new surroundings and the often unhealable wounds of infidelities. It’s a dark picture, on more level than one, and although the overall production may face a few fiscal limitations, the picture is crisp, the performances are generally spirited and the scares are varied and operative.
The story offers two parallel dangers to the protagonists, Jake and Dinah, and their two youngsters Steven and Michaela. First, the relationship between Jake and Dinah isn’t strained, it’s stretched so taut the fibers are snapping, and that trouble has left the children so terribly fragile that they’re all but welcoming the second layer of conflict into the family’s home. That second layer homes in on the ghosts of the local territory. Dark spirits dwell in the dense forest surrounding the family vacation home. These spirits are merciless, and they sense the vulnerability in the children – and they strike. What ensues is a spiral of horrific proportions, and sadly, there may be none left living to walk away from what amounts to a battle between good and evil.
As a husband of sixteen years, and a father of three (14, 2 and 6 months), I’m particularly sensitive to any story that burrows in the seams of the family bond and tears, weakening that hold slowly but gradually before bursting free to leave nothing but carnage behind. These are tough pictures to watch, because often – assuming the screenwriting is strong, which is the case here, thanks to the talented Ben Everhart – the troubles that families face on screen mirror the problems we really face, in the real world, where no cameras follow and no director’s scream ‘cut.’ Depending on whose statistical studies you’re examining, between 55 and 70-percent of marriages end as a result of infidelities. It’s the number one reason couples divorce in America. So, you know that’s coming here. But where it all leads, that’s a story to be seen, not told.
Both Chris Conner and Elena Caruso (Jake and Dinah, respectively) do an excellent job of convincing the audience that things aren’t all cheery here. And as each descend into dark mental corridors, we believe it. Conner pulls his best James Brolin wood chopping routine, and viewers will certainly feel the rage oozing out of the man’s pores. Likewise, viewers won’t care much for Caruso’s Dinah, a byproduct of a powerful showing. And, we owe youngsters Noah Headley and Accalia Quintana a proper head nod. They’re young, but they’re going to be special should they choose to remain in the business.
Here’s the simple truth: The Harvesting isn’t a big production. It isn’t elaborate and it isn’t loaded with awe inspiring special effects. However, what the film does offer are a handful of slick scares that might sneak right by you if you’re not watching closely. You’ll also get an assortment of memorable performances and an intricately assembled story loaded with eerie setups and sharp and unsympathetic scares. Keep an eye out for a finale that isn’t afraid to flirt with supremely dark material.