Halloween is a special time that evokes nostalgia for a by-gone era and asks you to set aside normal conventions and use your imagination to conjure scary things. The 2006 novel Dark Harvest nails it with a wistful coming of age story set in the early 60s in rural small town America. It’s a tough sell for today’s horror audiences who only want predictable slasher sequels, and yet this adaptation is so true to the novel (up until the ending). It’s a nuanced and often emotional ride, that often gets very grisly with some bloody chaos, before returning to the gloom and doom of adolescence.
What will lose some viewers is the lack of explanation for the rich and dense mythology that is only hinted at. Just like the protagonists, the audience is along for the ride with no omniscient perspective to help make sense of Sawtooth Jack or the curse on the town. This is where the imagination part comes in, and yes, having read the book helps (a clear nod to fans). What we are given is some very striking and poetic visuals of this monster in action. The whole film looks spectacular, washed in cold blue tones of a dark October night.
There are some strong performances most notably the tousled Casey Likes, the cool and collected Emyri Crutchfield, and the loopy Luke Kirby as the bad cop. Alejandro Akara also makes a too brief appearance as the haunted child forced into adulthood. There’s some social commentary on family, class, and race in this film and it’s handled well, and while I don’t clearly remember that being part of the novel, it’s admirable the film didn’t whitewash America.
What's unfortunate is that MGM didn’t believe in this gem of a film, dumping it unceremoniously onto VOD with a terrible poster (not the fan made above) and trailer. It deserves better, and I believe in time, it will have a second coming, much like Trick ‘r Treat or Halloween III: Season of the Witch (all required Halloween viewing). Seek out this film, but first ready the award-winning novel.