Review: Harvest Lake (2016)

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Girls Gone Wild by way of the Old Ones in this micro budget feature from director/writer Scott Schirmer. Find out what we think of Harvest Lake.

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My introduction to 2016’s Harvest Lakewhile reading a pre-production blurb from one of the film’s stars, Tristan Risk (The Editor, American Mary), comparing it favorably to the classic pod people film Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void. I was intrigued and sought it out, not being familiar with the work of writer/director Scott Schirmer, who is known in the horror community for his film, Found. Ultimately, while the film isn’t as unique as Enter the Void, a film which treats its audience to a series of out of body experiences as we follow its roving camera to different landscapes, it does have qualities that invoke that film. It has the sense of a tone poem, with slow pans of nature and a bizarre sex scene that serves as a coda to the film and caps off the film’s strong invocation of Lovecraftian themes. It is also highly reminiscent to all 3 of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers films. It has the sense of conformity used as a weapon in both Siegel’s 1956 version and Ferrara’s 1993 remake, while also invoking the body horror elements of Phillip Kaufman’s definitive 1978 remake.

Harvest Lake revolves around a couple, Ben and Cat (played by Dan Nye and Tristan Risk) & their two friends, Jennifer and Josh (Ellie Church and Jason Crowe). It’s Ben’s birthday, so they all pile down to a lake to celebrate where they have a cabin for the occasion. The dialogue and screenplay here by Schirmer is very solid; we get a sense of a long friendship here between all the characters. Cat and Ben are very sexually adventurous, but Cat wears the pants in their relationship and is trying to coax Jennifer into a threesome with her and Ben as a birthday treat. The characters are very sexual and the film doesn’t shy away from nudity or sexuality. Out on the beach, Ben and Cat are mesmerized by an invocation of a sexual presence in the woods that we as viewers are introduced to early in the film. The presence compels them into a sexual fervor, while at the same time, it draws Jennifer out into the lake. While it isn’t made overtly clear, we as the viewers are led to believe that there is an otherworldly entity in the lake. While Ben and Cat are distracted by the entity and its plants into a hypnotic consummation of their lust, it pulls Jennifer into the lake and creates a doppelganger to take her place among the party as it disposes of the original.

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From this point on, the influence of the Lovecraftian entity is felt through sex and how it assumes control of those in the party. The film is very reminiscent of Rolfe Kanefsky’s Alien Files films for Cinemax, by way of 2014’s Drafthouse Films’ title Spring, and Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond, with genuine dread evocative of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers films. Ellie Church’s performance is particularly strong as both Jennifer and the Lovecraftian proxy impersonating her, as is Jason Crowe as Josh, whose struggles with the entity’s attempt to make him conform and become one with it clash with his own sexuality and feelings of acceptance. The gender and sexual politics in this movie make for great subtext, especially when the charms of an alien assuming an attractive girl’s form don’t really have an affect on the protagonist.

If you’re looking for a reinvention of the 90’s erotic thriller with shades of Cthulhu, pod people and body horror and don’t mind a slow burn, check out Harvest Lake. Its waiting for you.

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