Stars: Matthew Tompkins, Arnold Vosloo, Michael Ironside, Arianne Martin, Damon Carney, Hayden Tweedie, James Cable
Writer: Jon Keeyes
Director: Jon Keeyes
Distributor: Film Mode Entertainment
Release Date: December 25, 2018
THE HARROWING plays with our sense of reality. Director/writer Jon Keeyes manages to keep us guessing all the way through as to what’s really happening: a supernatural event or a psychotic break.
Vice detective Ryan Calhoun (Matthew Tompkins) and his partner Jack Myers (Damon Carney) are clearly good at their jobs. An opening sequence displays their willingness to go to some pretty dark places when they’re undercover. Then Calhoun leaves the room to call for backup, and a shootout occurs.
Trying to get dirt on a politician who likes call girls, Calhoun and Myers are with rookie Roy Greenbaum (James Cable) on a surveillance stakeout. Once again, Calhoun leaves briefly, and this time, all hell breaks loose, almost literally. Devastated by (and partially blamed for) the catastrophe, Calhoun does some digging, and finds that the main culprit had been confined to and then released from a mental institution run by Dr. Franklin Whitney (Arnold Vosloo). Whitney has released a number of patients who have subsequently become violent and talk about demons.
Calhoun persuades his lieutenant (Michael Ironside) to let him go undercover at Whitney’s institution. Calhoun’s pretext for being there is that he needs a psychological evaluation for his legal case. However, he’s having hallucinations that get markedly worse the longer he stays.
Keeyes makes good use of saturated colors and bleeding whites to create images that seem slightly surreal, even when Calhoun is awake. The surrealism is much more pronounced in scenes of violence and its aftermath. Like Calhoun, we can’t be sure of what’s real and what isn’t. The more we learn of the demonic mythology at play here, the more we understand we can’t trust anything we see or hear.
This is a very tricky kind of storytelling. While Keeyes gives us some interesting imagery, along with some very graphic bloodshed, he loses control of momentum on the Moebius strip of THE HARROWING. Calhoun is a promising character in the opening scenes, but once he gets to the institution, we don’t see the strategy that made him intriguing at the start. The more beleaguered he gets, the more generic he becomes, and the less frightened we are for him. We’re curious as to what’s going on, but not invested.
Tompkins nevertheless gives a solid performance as Calhoun. Vosloo handles his multifaceted role well, Ironside is suitably strong and gruff, and Hayden Tweedie is courageous as an asylum resident with multiple disorders.
THE HARROWING is one of those movies that’s probably best watched with friends. The arguments about the meaning of what’s just been viewed may ultimately be the most entertaining part of the experience.
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Article: Movie Review: THE HARROWING