HARVEST LAKE *** U.S.A. 2016 Dir: Scott Schirmer. 78 mins
This Indiana-made indie from talented writer-director Scott Schirmer (hitherto best known for his feature debut FOUND) sustains a Euro horror sensibility with its frank sexuality, outré imagery and deliberate pace. The setup is deliberately routine : a quartet of twentysomethings set off for a back-to-nature break to celebrate a birthday, complete with a bag of weed and no cell phone reception. Their arrival appears to awaken a creature that proves the catalyst for a shedding of inhibitions and an acceleration of hormones.
HARVEST LAKE’s lineage lies first with the eco-horror cycle, with its ominously shot / scored, lingering observations of deceptively idyllic nature, its close-ups of marauding insects and the characters’ vocalised hatred of spiders. It is also swamped with unsubtle vaginal and phallic imagery, with characters spitting white goo into each other’s mouths and an admirably straight-faced climactic orgy involving a literal “one eyed monster”. It’s intentionally obtuse, undeniably pretentious and owes a debt to everything from Cronenberg to Zulawski’s POSSESSION, but the cast is unusually good (including AMERICAN MARY’s Tristan Risk) and it’s refreshing to see an American horror film encouraging sexual liberation while not being coy about both gay and straight sexuality.
Review by Steven West