A young woman returns to her home one afternoon and is attacked from behind, her assailant ramming her face into the house door. When she next awakes, the woman is bound and gagged on a bed as the attacker - wearing a mask that passes resemblance to Megadeth's 'Vic' mascot - slashes her tendons, before poking her eye out with a fork and devouring it.
It's the latest in a string of similar murders that are baffling Belfast's cops. Inspector Hatcher (Jean-Paul Van der Velde) and partner Jack (Robert Render) are assigned to the case. However, the latter's theories - which I can't really discuss here as they interfere with a pretty major twist in the plot - prove unpopular with their police chief: he's kicked off the case.
Nine months later, Hatcher has a new partner in the form of Ward (Griffin Madill). But the killings have continued, much to the disgust of the local press, and the police are still puzzled. A young couple suffer a gruesome fate while passing through a tunnel mid-afternoon one day; pretty blonde jogger Julie (Rachael Stewart) is abducted by a second mask-wearing psycho a short while later.
As Julie is dragged back to the dual psychopaths' secluded farmhouse shack, she's tied up there alongside a screaming male victim. Their brutal fates clue is in a little further as to the method behind their aggressors' (Andrew Crawford and Liam Rowan) madness.
Eventually Hatcher realises that he's going to have to turn to discredited Jack, who now sits at home each day obsessing over the case - his wall adorned with post-it note clues, newspaper clippings and a map of the area which shows where each killing took place - if he hopes to bring the murders to an end.
But can he accept Jack's theory behind the crimes? And will the true motive of the crazed killers prove to be more outrageous than even he thought?
THE BLOOD HARVEST is the latest film from no-budget auteur George Clarke, whose previous outings include the likes of THE KNACKERY, SPLASH AREA and ONUS. In the case of THE BLOOD HARVEST, Clarke writes, directs, co-produces, co-ordinates the stunts, edits and handles the cinematography!
Filmed around Northern Ireland on a reported budget of just £10,000.00, it has to be said that the digital film often looks very good. Keen photography and adroit editing help achieve a polished sheen; Paul McCordie's brooding understated score assists in evoking ample atmosphere.
Locations are used well, particularly in the case of the killers' remote retreat and the early tunnel in which two luckless lovers are attacked. Clarke uses both settings well in a bid to elicit tension.
A brisk pace bolsters the intriguing story along, while Clarke playfully fuses various horror genres together, successfully keeping his audience on their toes while anticipating a twist that doesn't disappoint in terms of sheer audacity (though those familiar with Clarke's politics will find logic herein). Alas, the nature of said twist prevents me from elaborating on which sub-genres are explored throughout...
Minor gore FX (courtesy of Andrew Burns, Constance McGrath and Rachel Johnston) are good in a crude practical fashion, the grisly notions of ankles being split open with blades and eyes forked out of skulls being deftly executed.
Of course, a film of such meagre resources is going to have its shortcomings. The script, while ambitious, isn't always consistent. Performances vary wildly in competence (most of the victims are borderline pathetic, a matter not helped by their screams sometimes being dubbed in post-production). The tendency to slip into slow-motion during set-piece scenes, presumably for dramatic impact, soon becomes annoying.
Still, the good outweighs the bad here. Even the sound design is creepily cool at times, and a second viewing highlights Clarke's immaculate attention to detail (again, no spoilers here - but that twist is signposted a few times, with the benefit of a repeat sitting).
Left Films' UK DVD presents THE BLOOD HARVEST uncut and in its original 16x9 widescreen ratio. The transfer is a solid one, offering strong colours, deep blacks and sharp detail.
English 2.0 audio does its job in competent fashion; no quibbles here.
A static main menu page kicks the disc off. From there, an animated a scene selection offers access to THE BLOOD HARVEST via 9 chapters.
Bonus features begin with an enjoyable 33-minute "Making Of" documentary which fuses monochrome cast and crew interviews with enjoyable on-shoot footage, along with clips from the finished product. Clearly a good time was had by all, while Clarke comes across as amiable, intelligent and fiercely focused.
11 minutes of bloopers follow, reinforcing the point that everyone had a great laugh while shooting the film.
Two original trailers round off proceedings, as well as previews for NOBODY CAN COOL, ZOMBIE RESURRECTION, DARKEST DAY, BIND and INVOKED. The disc is also defaulted to open with trailers for the latter two films.
THE BLOOD HARVEST is low on budget but flourishes with style and imagination. It doesn't always succeed in its ambitions (performances are a weak spot) but it's still good to see an indie film that strives to be something other than the norm.
If you're feeling adventurous and can see past budgetary limitations, this is well worth checking out.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Left Films|
|see main review|