Contributed by Guest Writer, Gorey Bits
Dir. Will Klipstine
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The very idea of sleep paralysis terrifies me. Knowing that I wouldn’t be in control of my body when I wake up in bed doesn’t sound pleasant at all. The same goes for dreams I can’t control. What would happen if you were to throw in a supernatural element to that idea? Like, what would happen if you somehow never existed? This is the kind of story that The Harbinger manages to tells perfectly, while managing to provide commentary on a real world threat. It channels our darkest fears by holding a mirror to what life was like in the year 2020.
Disclaimer: I’m going to do my best to avoid any spoiler talk for the XYZ Films release The Harbinger. It’s a movie that deserves all the attention, so the less you know about it the better.
The Harbinger takes place during the lockdown phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. We follow a woman named Monique. Monique is under strict quarantine along with her father Ronald (Raymond Anthony Thomas) and brother Lyle (Myles Walker). Monique receives a phone call from her old friend Mavis (Emily Davis), who is in desperate need of help. The following day, Monique ventures out of quarantine to stay with Mavis in her apartment. Not too long after, Mavis explains that she’s been plagued with nightmares surrounding a dark and mysterious figure.
The Harbinger is the latest film from writer/director Andy Mitton, who also served as the film’s composer, editor and producer. Filmed during the heart of the pandemic, The Harbinger is one of the most engaging horror movies I’ve ever watched. This film should be used as an example of how you can grab an audience’s attention from the beginning. The Harbinger is a masterfully crafted movie with a smart script and relatable cast of characters. I was attached to the characters right away; mostly because of their interactions with one another. The dialog in every scene felt natural, and the phenomenal acting is what makes the movie so engaging.
Joining the ranks of films like Host, Alone With You and Lexi: An American Vanishing, The Harbinger is a pandemic made thriller that manages to provide a bit of social commentary. It’s the kind of movie that’s often labeled as “elevated horror.” Unlike some of the other films I mentioned, The Harbinger directly uses the pandemic as part of its story. It’s a mirror into what life has been like for us these last two years. I imagine it’ll rub some viewers the wrong way, and the “denial” aspect of the pandemic is present among one of the film’s characters.
We tend to watch movies in order to escape reality, so having your entertainment reflect what life was like during the pandemic was a little unnerving. While the story does center around a real life threat, it’s not an after school special. The dialog feels neither preachy or forced. There’s meaning to the story. There’s weight to the tension and paranoia. The scenes involving Monique and Mavis were an absolute pleasure to watch. Their friendship is the heart and soul of The Harbinger. Actor’s Gabby Beans and Emily Davis have such great chemistry onscreen. So much so that you easily buy into the idea that these two characters have been friends for quite sometime.
My favorite scene in The Harbinger involves a haunting zoom call that takes place during the daytime. This particular scene involves Monique, Mavis and a specialist named Crystal (Stephanie Roth Haberle). It’s a chilling scene that reveals exactly what the supernatural presence is. Dreams play a big part in this aspect of the movie. The Harbinger’s supernatural elements reminded me of the “Elm Street” movies. More specifically, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Once you see The Harbinger for yourself, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Remember: the less you know going into the movie the better.
There’s one thing about The Harbinger that left me confused. The film seemingly takes place in the dead of winter. It’s a cold New York setting with plenty of snow, yet with the amount of fear and paranoia that’s running rampant due to the coronavirus, it feels like the early stages of quarantine. It’s a nit pick that doesn’t hurt the film at all, and in all honesty I could be wrong about the timeline. The dark and cold atmosphere is more beneficial to the story anyway. Truth be told I can’t think of any other negative thing to say about The Harbinger. It’s the kind of movie that’ll stick with you long after you’ve watched it.
The Harbinger is one of the best horror films I’ve watched this year. It’s a thinking persons film that managed to entertain and scare the pants off of me. It’s got terrific performances from the film’s talented cast, along with a tremendous musical score from Andy Mitton. If anything, The Harbinger will serve as the perfect time capsule to what life was like during this time period. With that said, I’m anxious to revisit this movie in the distant future. The Harbinger is available to watch now on most digital platforms. Before you do that, check your local listings to see if it’s available on a big screen near you. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
I give The Harbinger:
9 out of 10 spooky nightmares.