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Elizabeth Harvest (Movie Review)

Elizabeth Harvest (Movie Review)
5 10

PLOT: Newlywed Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) arrives with her brilliant scientist husband Henry (Ciaran Hinds) to his magnificent estate, where he wows her with lavish dinners and a dazzling tour of the property.  The house staff, Claire (Carla Gugino) and Oliver (Matthew Beard), treats her deferentially but she can’t shake the feeling something is off.  Henry explains that everything in his world now belongs to her, all is for her to play in — all except for a locked-off room he forbids her from entering.  When he goes away for business, Elizabeth decides to investigate and finds she may not be who she thinks she is at all.

REVIEW: A few weeks back we got word that IFC Midnight will be releasing writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez's new horror-thriller ELIZABETH HARVEST starring Abbey Lee, Carla Gugino, Ciaran Hinds, Matthew Beard, and Dylan Baker into theaters in New York and Los Angeles and also On Demand August 10th. Along with that announcement we received a poster and a trailer (see above) for the film and I was instantly hooked in. I mean, look at that cast! So now that I've had the opportunity to peep the twisty and twisted sci-fi horror flick what did I think? Let's find out now!

First off let's do a bit of a rundown on the film's plot. The stunning Abbey Lee plays, you guessed it, a girl named Elizabeth. This young woman has just married an older gentleman played with sinister prestige by Ciaran Hinds, an actor you might recognize from GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, GAME OF THRONES, or the recent Ridley Scott-produced AMC horror anthology series THE TERROR. Hinds' millionaire (billionaire?) character whisks Elizabeth off to his lavish home in the hills for their honeymoon. There Elizabeth not only finds each and every comfort she could ever imagine, but she is also introduced to the "help" played by Carla Gugino and Matthew Beard. All of this seems like a fairy tale come true for sweet, naive Elizabeth. But as we all know by sheer virtue of the fact that this film is getting a review on Arrow in the Head, things don't go so well for Elizabeth Harvest.

I'm not going to get much further into the film's plot as it takes a massive turn 25 minutes in that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, or stepping out of it and moving on to the next motion picture in your queue. That said, I will say that the film's first act - and its resolving plot turn - is a joy. The opening section of the film boasts all the fixings of a major Hollywood mini-masterpiece. Lavish locations are only matched by the stunning cinematography and the (obviously) stellar thespians on display. And when the film's central plot seems to resolve itself WAY too early on, it is a jolt that takes you back. Guaranteed. 

But unfortunately, that jolt comes at a price. From there the film devolves into something else, a different subgenre of horror, and hell, cinema at large. Some people dig these kinds of massive transitions - and I'm usually one of them - but the plot flip-flop of ELIZABETH HARVEST was a little harder to swallow than usual. I'm not sure why this film didn't work for me, but I think it has to do with simple repetition. The film keeps giving us more of the same - with some outlandish developments - along the way. Let it be known this is not a bad film. It is well made and the acting is above and beyond what we (unfortunately) are usually served within our beloved genre. But it's just a revolving door of too much, too often.

In fact, the film that this experience most reminded me off - as strange as it may sound - is director Pedro Almodóvar's modern masterpiece THE SKIN I LIVE IN. For those of you haven't seen it (and have some strong stomachs) I highly suggest you check it out ASAP. For those of you who HAVE seen the Antonio Banderas picture, let me make sure to assure you that, NO this film does NOT contain anywhere near the same style of twists and turns contained within that film. That isn't what I'm saying. I'm merely pointing out that ELIZABETH HARVEST reminded me of the other in that it is a truly twisted tale told from a polished and prestigious angle. It just falls short time and time again. 

But it's not all bad by any means. The acting is top-notch from front to back, with Hinds and Gugino really stealing the show. Ironically, however, it is Lee and Beard though who seem to have the majority of the screentime. But that's (kinda) okay as they can hold our interests. There's even a fun little role in there for one of film's great underappreciated and underutilized actors, Dylan Baker (TRICK 'R TREAT, HAPPINESS). In the acting department, the film succeeds, hands down.

Overall, ELIZABETH HARVEST is a film that has too much script for its own good. And by that, I mean the film contains far too many twists, turns, exposition scenes, ideas, themes, and pretensions. While Gutierrez must be commended for his directing job, his script is a whole other story. But at least the film is rated R for "bloody violence, graphic nudity, sexuality and some language." And it earns that rating. Thank God, for at least that.

Extra Tidbit: The movie will be hitting theaters in New York and Los Angeles and also On Demand Friday, August 10th.
Source: AITH

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