Directed by Rob Grant.
Starring Munro Chambers, Emily Tyra, Christopher Gray, and Brett Gelman.
The friendship of three people is tested when a fun boat trip turns into a nightmare fight for survival.
You may see Harpoon, the fifth full-length feature from writer/director Rob Grant (What Doesn’t Kill You), billed as a ‘horror comedy’ in certain quarters, and it is true to say that there is a deliciously dark sense of humour at play beneath the surface, as it were. However, Harpoon is not a movie to guffaw and snigger at due to the visual gags, scripted jokes and general tomfoolery normally associated with such a term.
Instead it is really a tight, efficient and claustrophobic thriller set on a boat stuck out on the high seas, which is pretty much the best setting for a three-person revenge plot as there is no getting away to safety, or at least no easy method in getting away to safety. The three people involved in this particular triangle of revenge are Jonah (Munro Chambers – Turbo Kid), an appropriately named young man who seems to have had a run of bad luck given the backstory we are given, and he is joined by his best friend Richard (Christopher Gray – The Mist TV series) and Richard’s girlfriend Sasha (Emily Tyra – Code Black), who more often than not plays referee between the bickering buddies.
The boat they are belongs to Richard’s father, a character we don’t see but we hear about a lot as he appears to have a shady past and a bit of a temper, something that Richard has inherited. Once out at sea and well away from land Richard’s intentions become clear as he has something of a beef with the more laid-back Jonah, but once Richard is given his birthday present of a spear gun (or the harpoon of the title in a running joke) the accusations start flying, tensions rise and things go from bad to worse, testing the friendships of the three characters to breaking point, with gruesome results.
Thanks to the narration provided by Brett Gelman (Stranger Things) the initial tone of Harpoon is seemingly light-hearted, poking fun at the title cards that open each chapter and generally setting up a feeling that something big is going to happen, which it does. But after the opening setup is played out and we are on the boat with the three characters the tone gets very dark very quickly thanks to some writing that wastes no time in getting to where we need to be, and that is the same place that Richard, Jonah and Sasha are – a place of total distrust.
You see, each character has come aboard with secrets; some that one of the others may know and some that nobody else knows and as the drama plays out, interspersed with the kind of viciously witty dialogue that only best friends could have with each other, the escalation and sense of impending dread gets ramped right up until the movie leaves thriller territory behind and evolves into full-on horror, with character perceptions shifting and icky gore effects filling up the final third to the inevitable payoff.
Coming packed with extras in the form of no less than three different audio commentaries that all feature, amongst other crew members, Rob Grant, a behind-the-scenes documentary, deleted scenes and FrightFest promotional materials, the loaded disc is a reflection of how much the filmmakers have put into the movie, and with performances that veer from jovial to chilling in as much time as it takes to reload the harpoon (sorry – spear gun) and some glorious aerial shots that ramp up the feeling of isolation, Harpoon does exactly what it sets out to do by making you laugh a little and making you think you know where this is all going before taking some very sharp turns down some very dark (shipping) lanes. No, it isn’t a comedy in the common sense of the word but it isn’t hard to imagine Rob Grant on the other side of the camera rubbing his hands together with glee, sniggering at his own misdirection and enjoying taking the viewer for an 83-minute journey that may not be the most original single location thriller you’ll ever see but it is certainly one of the most tense and engaging.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★