THE HARROWING *** USA 2017 Dir: Jon Keeyes. 110 mins
The latest from prolific writer-director Jon Keeyes starts in gritty police procedural territory, as loving husband / Vice Squad Detective Ryan Calhoun (Matthew Tompkins) oversees a paedophile sting. It takes a sharp turn into the occult horror realm when his best friend / partner is gruesomely killed by a colleague ranting about “the demons”. Suspended by his boss (ever-dependable Michael Ironside), the increasingly fractured Tompkins goes undercover as a patient in Arnold Vosloo’s experimental psychiatric clinic, from which the killer was discharged.
Despite overlength and some disappointing onscreen “demons”, this well-crafted genre-hybrid pulls off an engaging transition into a SHUTTER ISLAND / ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST scenario. A frosty Nurse Ratched figure and a sexy nymphomaniac-necrophiliac figure in the escalating mind-fuck as we become at the mercy of a hero who may or may not be completely insane. Tompkins does good work, though Vosloo steals it as the subtly intimidating chief of staff who considers mental illness to be caused by demons embedded deep in the human psyche that we routinely combat with medication when we should be engaging with them on the surface. Those familiar with the movie’s key influences will see right through the misdirection, but Keeyes keeps it visually compelling and knows when to showcase the most visceral moments.
Review by Steven West