Thursday 24 October 2019

HARPOON (2019)

Directed by: Rob Grant. Starring: Munro Chambers, Emily Tyra, Christopher Gray. Horror, Canada 2019, 82mins, Cert 18.

“If he dies, is he edible?”

Director Rob Grant steers his dark-humoured nautical indie reworking of Polanski’s KNIFE IN THE WATER (1962) through some claustrophobic choppy (and bloody) waters. 

Rich short-tempered brat Richard (Christopher Gray), convinced by a text exchange that his slacker best friend Jonah (Munro Chambers) has slept with his girlfriend Sasha (Emily Tyra), bursts into the film, and Jonah’s apartment, and proceeds to pulverise Jonah into a bloodied pulp. Luckily for Jonah, referee Sasha arrives in the nick of time to call a halt to the proceedings. Explaining the texts were really about buying Richard’s surprise birthday present (a spear-gun, the subject of a running gag where it’s constantly referred to as a harpoon), Richard tries to make amends by taking his friends out on his yacht for a day-trip on the open seas.

But this is an ill-fated love triangle which couldn’t be any more ill-fated if they’d sailed straight into the Bermuda Triangle. An omnipresent narrator (Brett Gelman, ‘Stranger Things’, ‘Fleabag’) drily fills us in on the morally questionable back-stories of our three protagonists. The camera peers down from on high in judgement before focusing in on a makeshift ‘SOS’ sign and a blood trail on the deck of ‘The Naughty Buoy’.

Given its UK premiere at this year’s Arrow FrightFest, this crowd pleasing three-(deck)-hander wrings every salty drop of tension from its modest premise. Although neither Richard, Jonah nor Sasha are remotely likeable, it’s a testament to the cast and filmmakers that their respective fates still manage to maintain our morbid curiosity.
Kudos to director Grant and co-scripter Mike Kovac on their gag reflexing riff on survival strategies to stave off dehydration, and the constantly shifting character arcs which refresh the narrative whenever the story threatens to run-aground.

HARPOON (“It’s a spear gun!”) briskly and efficiently navigates its way through its seafaring tall tale of dysfunctional friendships turned septic with a commendable degree of aplomb. It may not land huge breaking waves on the genre’s shores but it certainly generates entertaining ripples on the surface. 

Paul Worts

***(OUT OF 5*)

This review was first published by FrightFest.

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