In the month of October, nothing hits a horror lover’s sweet spot like a Halloween flick. There are the classics that deserve a re-watch every year, and a hope for something new each season to add to that favorites list. In 2023, that film is Dark Harvest.
Based on Norman Partridge’s novel of the same name, Dark Harvest is the story of a small, cursed town with a dangerous Halloween tradition. On October 31, 1963, Richie Shepard (Casey Likes) joins the other boys in town in a race to fight off the local legend, Sawtooth Jack. This yearly battle for survival has only one winner, and dire consequences for many others. Richie, whose brother won the previous year, attempts to follow in his footsteps, uncovering sinister secrets along the way.
This film has made my top ten of 2023 for many reasons. The first is that I love a good coming of age story. While viewers only glimpse a few days in their lives, the main characters are teens coming to grips with some harsh truths. While it stands on its own, Dark Harvest gives off vibes of some classic stories and films. It feels like a marriage of Lord of the Flies, The Purge, and Pumpkinhead, with a hint of The Outsiders.
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The film is directed by David Slade, and after reviewing his catalog of work, I would say it has that dark atmosphere similar to that found in 30 Days of Night. The majority of Dark Harvest takes place in the twilight hours or completely at night, with very few daytime scenes. This adds to the haunted atmosphere and feeling that the film evokes. It’s a movie with strong visual appeal from start to finish.
Dark Harvest earns its R rating mainly due to the violence depicted. There are some gory kill scenes, with great timing. My only complaint about the film is that on the flip side, some of those scenes are heavy on the CGI effects.
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The gore is balanced by an excellent mix of humor and heart. Luke Kirby, as Officer Ricks, delivers some great lines. Jeremy Davies, as Dan Shepard, turns in a strong performance as a father tormented by his decisions. Overall, the acting is great across the board.
Dark Harvest brings the horror with heart and just enough humor. To me, this is a winning combination both on the big screen and in a book. While I haven’t read the novel, this is a rare occurrence in which I would like to seek out a copy after watching the film.The story is brought to life so well that I can only imagine what substance the original tome holds.
Dealing with themes of class, privilege, tradition and family, Dark Harvest has substance. It is an effective and memorable movie that will leave a lasting impact on viewers. I wish this had a wider theatrical release to reach more people, but anticipate it will be a sleeper hit of the year among those who stumble across the film.
Following its one-night theatrical bow, Dark Harvest is now available on digital.
WICKED RATING: 9/10