Running Time: 93 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
Peter Goddard continues his journey through the dark side of English rural life with his latest opus Harvest of the Dead (aka The Devils Harvest). Whilst his previous releases Season of the Witch (2009) and Any Minute Now (2013) focused on ghosts, ghouls, conjurors and village death squads, his new project has its bloody axe and dagger wedged firmly into the slasher genre. If you hadn’t been convinced to avoid a relaxing country drive by Goddard previously, perhaps his demonic witch doctor, aqua vampire, forest demon, possessed pumpkins and killer scarecrows might change your mind. There’s a plethora of monsters stalking your flesh in this tale of terror.
The story unfolds with four attractive female friends, Amy, Melissa, Hailey and Tess venturing into the countryside to indulge in a night of alcoholic beverages, campfire stories and deciphering how many guys they have copulated with. Whilst they pitch their tent an unknown figure stares at them from the forest. Unbeknownst to the ladies, their tale of the plague doctor will be manifesting itself in a very physical sense throughout their stay. One by one they will be carved until the true nature and intent of the protagonist is revealed.
Goddard throws everything but the kitchen sink at the viewer in his third grisly feature. Harvest of the Dead has a faster pace and certainly a more humorous tone to proceedings than before. Although the production values and budget are at a minimum, Goddard’s confidence and skill as a filmmaker continue to grow. The movie’s lead villain, the Plague Doctor is an imposing and malevolent presence throughout the proceedings, almost a British version of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees.
The campfire tales are a fun touch too. Serving as a murderous interlude they feature a handful of ABC’s of Death inspired shorts. The best of the bunch features Goddard regular, Lee Macdonald sending himself up as a minor celebrity who gets more than he bargained for when agreeing to appear in a Britain’s Most Haunted style show. Macdonald and the cast are clearly enjoying themselves with his beloved Grange Hill creation up for a little mockery. The acting in general will not win any awards but there is certainly an aura of enthusiasm. I did enjoy Tim Faraday’s turn as a seedy surgeon though. If he had a Dick Dastardly moustache to twiddle it would have been suitably twiddled.
Harvest of the Dead is a fun and gruesome addition to the slasher genre. The movie benefits from not taking itself too seriously whilst splashing out copious amounts of the claret for the hungry gore hounds. Fans of Goddard’s previous work might regard this as his greatest hits package. It reflects on the same issues and styles as before but also injects a healthy splatter of humour.