The intersection of comedy and thriller do not often mix well, especially in survivalist narratives. But Harpoon, even with its familiar survivalist tropes on display, evenly balances the two in an intense, frequently unpleasant, but endlessly watchable nightmare-at-sea.
Harpoon pits three friends – Jonah (Munro Chambers), Richard (Christopher Gray), and his girlfriend Sasha (Emily Tyra) – in a bid to outlive each other on a broken Yacht. The tensions emerge early in the film: Richard learns that Jonah and Sasha have slept together, setting the stage for several days of drifting away at sea. As the three characters become hungrier, thirstier, and sicker, their mental faculties begin to degrade as well, forcing to commit violent, sometimes deadly acts on each other.
At a brisk 82 minutes, Harpoon moves swiftly through the dramatic set-up. The moments of dark comedy are evidently sinister, courtesy of Brett Gelman’s ironic narration of the events, as well context, of certain scenes, which are accompanied by documentary newsreels. The film’s truly dark turns, however, are played fairly straight, and come across as horrific rather than ironically funny.
All three cast members deliver strong performances here. Though the invariably up-and-coming Chambers, of 2015’s post-apocalyptic superhero flick Turbo Kid and this year’s Riot Girls, truly shines here. Chambers balances a role that requires both a down-to-earth straightness, but also a psychopathic side that takes some truly traumatic events to unlock. Gray also emerges as a evident talent here as a trust fund kid with anger issues. Tyra’s Sasha, though, struggles to breakthrough, as the film relies heavily on the usual representations of femininity in the horror genre.
Harpoon is certainly for a niche audience, but those who enjoy the kind of idiosyncratic entertainment Canadian horror tends to offer will be pleased.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile